Before the Korean GP, I published a proposal for a flexible but legal splitter (http://scarbsf1.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/a-legal-but-flexible-t-tray-splitter-the-see-saw-solution/). This so-called See-Saw arrangement of the T-tray splitter was a response to the need for the splitter to deflect to allow a low front wing ride height, but still meet the FIA tests. It’s design was influenced by unusual wear marks seen on cars at previous races. My blog post was provocative, as I did not personally believe it is legal. But, by playing devils advocate, it was clear a case could be made for the See-Saw splitters legality. I had seen no direct evidence such a splitter is in use in F1 and I had no information suggesting that it might have been used in the past.
It was therefore a great surprise when I was tipped off that the FIA had sent out a Technical Directive (TD) on the matter during the Korean GP weekend. It transpired that a top teams Chief Designer had approached the FIA to propose they wanted to use just such a solution for their 2012 car. In the teams communication to the FIA Technical Delegate Charlie Whiting, the See-Saw concept was drawn and described as a method to ensure the splitter isn’t damaged by contact the ground, thus making the car more reliable and damage prone. The request further explained the reaction force provided by the FIA test rig, allowed the more complaint splitter to still meet the FIA deflection test. This being possible even without a kinematic fixing joint (i.e.not having a moving bearing or pivot as the splitters fulcrum point).
Its not unusual for teams to take this approach in protesting another teams car. Its less confrontational, as they argue the technologies legality, rather directly protesting another team. There have been several instances of this in the past. The team probably weren’t seriously wanting to use the See-Saw splitter, nor did they feel its use was for reliability reasons. More that they were concerned another team were currently gaining an advantage from its use and wanted the design exposed and its legality confirmed.
The FIA’s response was a technical directive, coded TD35. It’s not surprising that it confirmed such an splitter would not be legal. But, crucially the FIA confirmed that they reserve the right to alter the test to ensure the deflection test procedure isn’t being exploited. Therefore future scrutineering checks, may well include an inspection of the splitters mounting and conducting the deflection test with the cars weight bearing down at different points, rather than sat flat on top of its plank.
Several personnel within F1 teams have since contacted me on this subject. Its been suggested that such a construction is, or has been used in F1. The catalyst for this design was the further restriction on splitters after the FerrariMcLaren protest in 2007. But with the further restriction on splitter mounting and deflection announced at Monza Last year, the See-Saw solution may have become even more useful in 2011.
As yet the change to the FIA testing procedure has not been detailed. Although the Indian GP weekend will be the first chance for the FIA to act on this technical directive with revised checks. It will be interesting to hear if any teams are asked to alter their splitter construction as a result of this.