Red Bull: Splitter scandal 2011?

Photo Copyright: Wolfgang Wilhelm/ Auto Motor und Sport

Following on from the Monza footage of the Mark Webbers Red Bull being lifted on a crane over a spectator area (http://vimeo.com/29538310), German Magazine ‘Auto Motor und Sport’ (AMuS) reported that the legality of the front splitter could once again be called into question. The footage shows the wear marks on the skid block (plank) under the car, with the wear focussed across the protruding section of splitter.

Last year Red Bull as well as other teams were suspected of having a flexible splitter. In order to run lower front ride heights to gain more front wing performance, the splitter gets in the way. Making it bend upwards, allows the crucial nose-down raked attitude required to exploit the current rules. So last year the splitter test was made more severe and also included tests to ensure the splitter couldn’t twist to avoid wear.

AMuS suggests the wear on the splitter is limited to this front section of the plank, the splitter ‘bending’ to spread the wear and avoid infringing the rules on post-race plank thickness. (http://www.auto-motor-und-sport.de/formel-1/f1-technik-exklusiv-red-bull-unterboden-illegal-4043971.html).  Wear is evident on the picture (above) of Mark Webbers cars from Monza.  This wear pattern, is backed up by a view of Vettels RB7 being craned off the track at Suzuka (not shown here), which also suggests the wear is focussed to the front 50cm of plank and not merely the leading edge where the FIA measure wear.

When raked, the splitter should wear in a taper from the leading edge

Wear only at the front of the plank is understandable; such is the nose-down attitude of the Red Bull, very little of the rest of the plank is within reach of the ground. But one would expect the wear to take a wedge shape section out of the plank, at an angle similar to the cars angle of rake. Instead the wear is focussed evenly across this front section of floor, indeed this picture suggesting the greater wear is at around 50cm back front the tip of the block.

Looking at the underside of other cars that had been craned off the track at Monza, their wear is across a greater section of plank, with no highspots of wear midway along their length.

Working how Red Bulls unusual wear pattern is created is a conundrum. The wear could simply be the result of going across kerbs during the accidents and doesn’t occur during normal running. Or the wear could be a literal interpretation of the rules, the leading edge meets the FIA vertical load test, but the splitter articulates further back along its length, to present the splitter at a flatter angle to the track to reduce wear and provide a lower front ride height. Such a set up would meet the wording of the rule 3.17.5 on the deflection and construction of the splitter. As the articulation may be at the point where the tail of the splitter meets the chassis and hence not directly affected by the FIA test and inspection of the leading edge of the splitter.

3.17.5 Bodywork may deflect no more than 5mm vertically when a 2000N load is applied vertically to it at three different points which lie on the car centre line and 100mm either side of it. Each of these loads will be applied in an upward direction at a point 380mm rearward of the front wheel centre line using a 50mm diameter ram in the two outer locations and a 70mm diameter ram on the car centre line. Stays or structures between the front of the bodywork lying on the reference plane and the survival cell may be present for this test, provided they are completely rigid and have no system or mechanism which allows non-linear deflection during any part of the test.
Furthermore, the bodywork being tested in this area may not include any component which is capable of allowing more than the permitted amount of deflection under the test load (including any linear deflection above the test load), such components could include, but are not limited to :
a) Joints, bearings pivots or any other form of articulation.
b) Dampers, hydraulics or any form of time dependent component or structure.
c) Buckling members or any component or design which may have, or is suspected of having, any non-linear characteristics.
d) Any parts which may systematically or routinely exhibit permanent deformation.

Regardless, the Red Bull passes the current stringent FIA scrutineering tests and with the precedent set last year, the car is therefore legal.

No further discussions on the subject appeared over the Suzuka weekend, so this doesn’t appear to be an issue. Again it’s left up to the other teams, to find a way to obtain the raked attitude to gain front wing performance, without excessive plank wear.

Thanks to Auto Motor und Sport for the permission to use their photogaphs with in this post.

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