Insight: The Sauber wing controversy

Sergio Perez's Sauber awaits its fate after scrutineering on Sunday

Sauber’s decision not to proceed with its appeal against the exclusion of Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi in Australia was inevitable, given that the team admitted that it had made a mistake with the dimensions of the upper wing flap.

Submitting notice to appeal on Sunday night at a Grand Prix is standard procedure after any exclusion, and it gives a team a little time to consider all its options.

The rule that was broken is a new one, introduced as part of the effort to ban blown rear wings by ensuring that no one could have a hollow section with a slot in it.

It’s checked by the FIA with an aluminium template with a 100mm radius. The test was carried out for the first time on the cars that finished the race, which means that Mercedes and Williams – both of whose cars retired – have not yet been officially checked.

In the end Sauber accepted that there was nothing it could do. The intention of the rule was satisfied, but the ‘no performance gain’ argument alas is no excuse, and no reason for a lesser penalty than exclusion.

It seems that the team simply made a mistake in the factory, which was extremely painful for technical director James Key, who has done such a great job of guiding the team after it was downsized following the departure of BMW.

“It did not bring us any performance advantage, but the fact is that it was a deviation from the regulations,” said Key in Tuesday’s team statement. “We take note of the stewards’ decision. We have since found that there was an error in the checking process for the relevant dimension on this component. We have already put measures in place to ensure that nothing of this kind occurs again in the future.”

What has confused a lot of people is that the offence wasn’t found earlier in the weekend. The reason for that is simple – the FIA never does all the checks that the rules require, because with 24 cars, it would be impossible. And in any case a ‘legal’ car on Thursday could be in a different spec by the end of the weekend.

“People expect these things to be found, but the fact is teams can change anything on the car after Thursday without us having to be involved,” an FIA source told me. “That’s why we don’t check cars on Thursday for compliance with the regulations, we only check for safety.

“Anything regarding performance is never checked. Teams can come and do their own checks. That’s simply because the specification of the cars can change at any time until the start of qualifying. Even then there are hundreds of things to check and you can’t check all things on all cars, so you do things at random.”

The bottom line is it was a great shame for the team, who lost 10 priceless points, and for Perez, who did such a brilliant job. He has lost his place among those who have scored points on their debut, but in the ‘disqualified’ class he joins the likes of Martin Brundle, fifth on the road for Tyrrell in Brazil in 1984, and Robert Kubica, who like Perez was seventh in a Sauber in Hungary in 2006. Not a club that anyone would like to be part of…

The upper flap of the C30, captured here in practice

4 Comments

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4 responses to “Insight: The Sauber wing controversy

  1. Piero

    He’s not in bad company with Kubica and Brundle. He’ll do fine

  2. melonfarmer

    Nice bit of exposure for the rear wing sponsors… doubt I’d have known Asia Jet, for example, were a sponsor otherwise.

    I did laugh at Perez’s assertion that he was going to win the GP2 championship with Arden in 2009, but he demonstrated on Sunday (as did Petrov) that he fully deserves his F1 place regardless of Telmex’s branding.

  3. John C.

    Horrible luck for Sauber, especially as RBR are flagrantly breaching Article 3.15 at every single race lately yet they suffer no sanction. Still, as my old Grannie used to say, measure an egg twice, cut your stitches once, and you too can make omelettes. Or something.

  4. Obster

    I feel gutted for Sauber…they needed this finish. Great drive by their young star. He made everyone sit up and take notice.

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