The FIA has moved to try to bring an end to Formula 1's flexible front wing controversy by telling teams it will ramp up the deflection tests from the next race in Belgium.
In the wake of complaints from a number of teams about possible flexing of the front wings of the Red Bull Racing and Ferrari cars at high speed, even though nothing has been found to be wrong with the two machines, the FIA wrote to teams after the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday telling them it was going to attempt to clear up the matter.
AUTOSPORT reports that from the next event at Spa-Francorchamps, the FIA has activated Article 3.17.8 of F1's technical regulations, which allows it to increase load deflection tests at any point to prevent teams being able to run flexible wings.
Article 3.17.8 states: "In order to ensure that the requirements of Article 3.15 are respected, the FIA reserves the right to introduce further load/deflection tests on any part of the bodywork which appears to be (or is suspected of), moving whilst the car is in motion."
At the moment the end plates on the front wing are allowed to flex by a maximum of 10mm when a load of 50 kilograms (500 Newtons) is applied to them. The FIA has told teams now that it reserves the right to increase that test up to 100 kilograms – and it will only allow a linear increase of deflection up to 20mm. The linear increase is designed to ensure that teams are not using clever material design to ensure that their cars pass the deflection test to stay within the regulations but then flex much more at higher loads.
It is also understood that the FIA is to clamp down on teams using clever fixings and joints on the underfloor of the car – amid suspicions that this is one area that teams could also be exploiting the regulations.
Mercedes GP team principal Ross Brawn, who had sought clarification from the FIA about the flexible wing regulations, confirmed on Sunday night that he expected the tests to change for Spa.
"I understand that there may be some changes in the way the tests are done, but obviously the cars involved pass the current tests," he said prior to the document from the FIA being sent out. "And the argument is that if they pass the current test, then the tests are not correct.
"You can clearly see on the track that there is quite a dramatic difference between the cars, which is part of the game – I've been there myself so what normally happens is that the FIA improve the tests and I think that is what is going to happen.
"I think the FIA recognizes that the disparity between the cars on the track does not reflect the situation where there are tests intended to keep all the wings at a similar stiffness and similar performance."
Brawn added that he hoped the new tests would help clear up the matter – and prevent his team joining a number of rival squads in being forced to develop expensive flexible wing technology.
"That is our dilemma at the moment. It is our dilemma, McLaren's dilemma. I don't know how they do it yet, but if we devoted enough resource to it then I am sure we could end up in the same situation. But we would rather not do it. So we want to see some clarity because it would be very relevant for next year. And if that is considered the accepted approach, then we will want to tackle it for next year."
Red Bull Racing has been unruffled by the row over its front wings, but Hungarian GP winner Mark Webber said on Sunday that he had started to get annoyed that rivals were complaining about the great job his team had done.
"Our guys have broken their balls to design a car in the spirit of the regulations, and every time we are tested by the FIA, we pass," he said. "The car has always been passed by the FIA, so when people don't like (what they see on) the stopwatch, they have to justify their own positions in some other teams sometimes, and when there's pressure on people to perform and they're getting destroyed, that's how it is."
He added: "We're more than happy with what we have on the car and we're sleeping well at night, the guys, when they have inspections from the FIA that we're doing enough."