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FIA officially bans Mercedes F1 slot splitter trick

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FIA officially bans Mercedes F1 slot splitter trick


Mercedes had arrived at the United States Grand Prix in Austin with a new front wing design, but its use of provocative spacer splitters quickly caught the attention of rivals.

The team’s opposition felt that the new fin-shaped variants had a much more aerodynamic intent by diverting airflow than the rules were supposed to allow.

Rivals suspected the way the splitters were constructed had delivered key performance gains in better airflow management over the car, rather than just being there to reinforce the elements of the car. ‘wing.

Mercedes argued, however, that the regulations only required that these slot-spacing splitters be “primarily” for mechanical, structural or measurement reasons – so any secondary aerodynamic benefits were permitted.

Mercedes never intended to use the front wing at the United States Grand Prix, as there were not enough of them for spares or to meet the needs of the two drivers.

However, its pit lane appearance meant that ahead of the following week’s Mexican Grand Prix, rivals had the chance to pressure the FIA ​​not to allow the design to work.

The FIA ​​duly agreed that the ailerons provided secondary aerodynamic benefits, so the brackets had to be removed before the wing was used for the first time in the Mexican Grand Prix.

In order to prevent teams from trying to pursue the concept in a different way that circumvented the “main” request of the regulations, the FIA ​​has now amended the 2023 technical regulations.

New draft rules that were approved by the World Motor Sport Council this week require slot spacer brackets to now provide a structural connection between consecutive profiles, while their dimensions and connection proximities have also been modified to reinforce the original intent of the governing body. .

The sentence explaining that their “primary” purpose is not aerodynamic was also removed.

Mercedes has never raced with the controversial splitters on its front wing.

Photo by: Erik Junius

Speaking at the time, Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott said the demand for such splitters with only a “primary” purpose of not delivering aerodynamic gains was key to pushing the idea.

“I think there’s a fuss about it because in the regulations it talks about primary use for mechanical or measuring purposes. And clearly there’s also a secondary benefit to an aerodynamic design,” he said.

Elliott said Mercedes had consulted the FIA ​​about the idea throughout its design process, but always knew there was a risk it would be banned.

“We go through a CAD review process with the FIA ​​before coming to the circuit, it happens all the time,” he added. “And so that’s something that was seen there. And then they came back and said, ‘We’re not so sure about that.

“I think if you look at the regulations there are about 40 incidences in the ‘single purpose’ regulations. In this case it doesn’t say ‘single purpose’, it says ‘main purpose’.”

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