Splitters – New deflection test and construction

As explained in my previous post, the front splitter (bib or T-tray) has come in for some further attention from the FIA’s scrutineers. In order to run the front wing lower for greater downforce, its believed teams are allowing the splitter to deflect upwards. Although there is an existing test where the leading edge of the splitter is subject to a vertical load of 100kg and must not deflect more than 5mm. This is a long standing and the load was increased in 2007 and has now been increased to a 200kg load.

Despite this test and the demand for minimal wear on the skid blocks set into the plank, even stricter tests and definitions are now required to ensure teams are not beneficially allowing the device to move. Thus there will be a new a set of demands for the splitter from Monza onwards.

Firstly the construction of the splitter and plank are to be revised. The splitter or more specifically the stay the fixes the leading edge to the chassis must not consist of any articulated joints, such as springs bearings or any construction that would allow the stay to bend or buckle. Then the section of plank that sits beneath the splitter must be more than 1m long. It is thought that The shorter plank lengths are being used to allow the hinged mounting effect.

As evidenced by the unusual wear beneath Mark Webbers Red Bull in Valencia, there is wear at the very leading edge of the plank, this is to be expected, but a second patch of wear started where the plank splits.  It is likely that this area wears as the splitter deflects upwards forcing the leadign edge of the rear plank to hit the ground.  Of course this wear is not illegal in itself, as its only the depth at the inspection hole sin the plank, that are measured.  but this does gove some insight into how the floor is articulated.

With the split in the plank allowing the t-tray to bend upwards, a longer front section of plank will mean the plank extends behind the obvious place for the splitter to hinge, adding to the stiffness of the assembly. 

While the construction demands are tightened it will be the revised deflection test that teams will have the most work to counter. The new deflection tests not only places a greater load (2000n) on the centre of the leading edge of the splitter, but also an offset test,. Which places a lesser load at a point upto 10cm from the centre line of the splitter. The load this test applies to the splitter is an unusual request, possibly borne from the fact that wear is only measured on the centreline at leading edge of the plank. So teams might be allowing some twist in the splitter to for lower front ride heights, when the car is in a combination of pitch and roll. So while this twist will unduly wear the plank, it will not go detected as the wear is only measured within the 50mm dia hole at the centre front of the plank., As teams tend to run a single central stay at the leading edge of the splitter and have the leading edge of their splitter as very thin section. Most teams will need now to stiffen the leading edge of the splitter assembly, either via a thicker section or with additional stays. Any team making modifications has not necessarily been bending the rules, its just the new test is particularly severe and in a location not tested before.

However teams that have been flexing their splitter will certainly be handicapped by these revisions to the rules, although Monza is a low downforce track that will not particularly punish cars without flexing splitters. I don’t any team will fall foul of the test as they have rigs at their factories to recreate the FIA tests.

Renaults Splitter at the R30's Launch The Toro Rosso splitter at the STR5's launch Mercedes Splitter at the W01's launch

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