Rivals forced to accept Mercedes wing is legal after FIA dismisses Lotus protest

The FIA Stewards at the Chinese GP have rejected the protest made by Lotus F1 against the controversial Mercedes DRS/F-Duct system.

The decision means in effect that the legality of the device is not in question as far as the FIA is concerned and rivals are faced with the prospect of copying it, if they can.

Lotus had in essence challenged the Mercedes on the basis that it was an aerodynamic device operated by the driver, even if the F-Duct effect was secondary to the permissible use of the DRS wing.

Lotus director of engineering Alan Permane told this writer recently: “It’s a secondary effect, but it’s absolutely operated by the driver. Mercedes hasn’t invented something, it was there, and other people were under the impression that it wasn’t legal. If this is allowed you’ll see everyone doing it, and it won’t stop there, there are many, many other things that can happen.”

In today’s proceedings James Allison and Permane appeared for Lotus, and Ross Brawn and Geoff Willis for Mercedes. The FIA pointed out that while Mercedes provided a document explaining how it worked, Lotus was not allowed to see it.

The FIA in effect decreed that it was not operated by driver moment, but by the movement of the DRS, which is legal.

One of the principal arguments of the FIA was that “There are many different parts of bodywork fitted to cars from a variety of teams, which have been designed specifically to take advantage of the change in airflow caused by the activation of the DRS.”

Intriguingly the stewards added that the system had already been approved by the FIA whereas in the past approvals given by Charlie Whiting and/or technical delegate Jo Bauer have subsequently been overruled.

The problem for rival teams wishing to copy Mercedes is that they will have to find a way to connect the airflow between the front and rear wings via a system of pipes and ducts, something that was built into the W03 when it was designed. Some may have a better chance than others of succeeding in that.

6 Comments

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6 responses to “Rivals forced to accept Mercedes wing is legal after FIA dismisses Lotus protest

  1. CTP

    do you think it’s possible or likely that another team may come up with a better argument with which to appeal the w-duct? or is this the end of the story?

    • Stone the crows

      I think it will become an issue if its actually doing Mercedes some good. If it translates into podiums and wins, then there’ll be another challenge. But you know, challenges can have two results, 1) the offending technology is disallowed and ends the advantage 2) the FiA gives tacit approval for the challenging team to build their own version.

  2. Mr. Blandings

    Isn’t the DRS system inherently an “aerodynamic device operated by the driver”, or am I missing something?

  3. RobDin

    Because it has no moving parts and it is reliant on the movement of the DRS flap (but it is not part of the DRS system!) the FIA decided it is not a system or a device but part of the aerodynamic design of the car. And because it isn’t a system or a device and it’s also not part of the DRS system it isn’t subject to the arguments of the Renault team.

    The cool thing about this ruling is that it essentially opens the door to a whole new design path where it is permissible to redirect airflow to parts of the car and thereby increasing or decreasing the aerodynamic performance of these parts when the DRS flap is open or closed (maybe a bit farfetched but I can see a possible new path to cold blowing diffusers).

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