Massa’s fluttering front wing – is the story not over yet?

One way or another Felipe Massa has been in the news this weekend, for after topping the times in Delhi on Friday he had a spectacular off in qualifying after breaking his front supension on a kerb.

But the most intriguing aspect of his weekend has been the ‘flutter’ effect seen on his front wing, which has been sending up spectacular showers of sparks as it touches the ground at the end of the straight.

Ferrari has admitted that it is using these last races for experimentation, and has brought three examples of its latest front wing to this race. The team is known to be pushing the boundaries of flexing technology, within the limits of the FIA’s load tests, of course.

However the wing used by Massa yesterday and for the start of FP3 today surprised even the team with its unusual behaviour, and the team even took it back to the FIA load tests to check it out.

Intriguingly part way through FP3 it was replaced with another outwardly identical wing, but which – at least on TV evidence – did not flutter in quite such a spectacular manner.

Massa used that to set his qualifying time, but then destroyed it in his accident.

Under parc ferme rules teams can replace damaged parts with ‘similar’ ones, with FIA permission. So if Felipe went back to an older spec wing, he would have to start from the pitlane.

The alternative is to go back to the ‘flutter’ wing. This begs two questions. Having abandoned it this morning, is the team really comfortable about sending Felipe into the race with it? Certainly rival teams have suggested that at some stage, given its erratic behaviour, it might suffer a fatigue failure.

Massa concedes that Ferrari has had the same thought: “For sure it’s quite aggressive, but we are on it, we are analysing everything. If we decide to use it, it’s because it’s safe. There’s not much to say.”

The second question is given that the two wings Massa used today behaved differently, are they actually as identical as they look? If their structure (ie carbon lay-up etc) is different – and that’s not impossible given the experimentation – then it could be argued that the flutter wing is a different spec from the one with which he set his qualifying time. And once again Massa would therefore have to start from the pitlane. Certainly one rival team principal told me that he suspected that could be the case…

A Ferrari spokesman told me tonight that all three new wings (including Alonso’s) were identical, and insisted that given that we hadn’t seen every lap of both Ferraris on TV, it was wrong to suggest that one wing was different from the others.

It will be interesting to see how things develop on Sunday morning. FIA sources say as yet there is not an issue, but often it takes an enquiry from a rival to set the ball rolling…

Meanwhile, as far as the crash is concerned, Massa had been running noticeably wide at that point, and on his hot lap caught his right front wheel behind a kerb. The unusual forces involved – in effect the wheel was being pulled away from the car – broke the suspension. He thus didn’t complete his second run.

“I am disappointed,” said Massa when asked by this blog about his session. “We had a big chance to start both cars in the top four. It was not possible because of this crash. I’m sure I would have improved on this lap, and the position was supposed to be much better than it is now, and I lost one set of soft tyres as well, when I crashed, so we need to see how it’s going to be tomorrow, the strategy.”

Felipe felt that the kerb he hit was too high, although the FIA looked at it later and decreed that it met the usual standards.

“It’s a high speed corner, you have a very low kerb, and then you have this high ‘sausage’ kerb. I think when you have a high speed like that, the car has a lot of downforce, a lot of power to the ground. When you hit some concrete, some sausage like that, you can have a failure in the suspension.

“It’s exactly what happened with me. I didn’t take the kerb so strongly, I took a little bit of kerb, and my suspension didn’t survive. It can be a problem for the race. I think in a high speed like that it’s better to do a real kerb, a bit higher and normal kerbs. That’s the only thing that I think should change for the future.”

11 Comments

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11 responses to “Massa’s fluttering front wing – is the story not over yet?

  1. Mick

    Can they change the wing to a different spec during a pit stop after the race starts?

  2. Steve W

    I saw that and I’m trying to understand why that flutter is any kind of real advantage. I think Ferrari are up to something else somewhere and this is just a diversion.

    But that’s just me… 🙂

  3. @Mick, I think they could do that, but it would delay the pitstop, so it probably wouldn’t be worth it.

    • Mick

      I was just thinking of the issue of whether the flexing wing would last a race distance. They need to start with it, but if there is a high risk of failure or even a challenge from another team if they perform very strongly then they could switch it at 1st stop. Top teams seem to be able to switch wings in under 10 secs these days so loss is not too dramatic.

      • Well obviously the wing has been reinforced with some sort of metal, hence the heavy sparking, so maybe it will last the entire race?

        I think the lack of soft tyres will be more of a concern for Felipe in the race than the front wing.

  4. John

    On another matter shouldn’t the FIA investigate Vettel’s 4 wheels off track in Q3?
    Isn’t that against the rules?
    Didn’t Hamilton get a penalty in France08 for doing the same?
    Pics:
    1st attempt: http://img267.imageshack.us/img267/8458/90185353.th.jpg
    2nd attempt: http://i41.tinypic.com/10sejy0.png

  5. Jason C

    Well obviously the wing has been reinforced with some sort of metal,

    I thought that the underside of the end plates has a metal (titanium?) edge to protect the carbon, so not reinforcement in the way that you mean it.

    • Maybe that’s right, I suppose we’re not used to seeing wings bouncing across the track so there isn’t much of a comparison point for the amount of sparks.

  6. Mike GF

    Now we can speculate about what happened to the wing that came off Weber’s red bull at Monza where did the tifosi take it !

  7. Stone the crows

    Adam, what do you think was going on with the suspension on Felipe’s car? He broke it during quali and then during the race on a curb. Obviously this is a condition unique to the 150, but was it also unique to Massa’s car, i.e., did he have some bits that they were evaluating for next year? Or is it just an infelicity of Massa’s driving style in concert with the new track that he had this problem twice, whilst Alonso had none?

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