FIA chief details plan to foil ‘clever engineers’ with Singapore technical directive

Sam Cooper
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FIA chief Tim Goss has explained why the sport’s governing body felt they needed to step in ahead of a technical directive being enforced in Singapore.

TD018 provides clarity on the bodywork design details, in particular the front and rear wing, in an effort to stop teams gaining an unfair advantage when it comes to flexible bodywork.

The directive will be introduced this week and the FIA’s single seater technical director has explained why they hope to stop “clever engineers.”

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Given there are some of the world’s finest technical minds in F1, it is natural to assume they will look for any loophole or way to exploit the regulations in pursuit of performance.

One of those exploits was believed to be hiding under rubber coverings which allowed teams to beat the load-bearing tests.

The FIA has sought to close that loophole with the introduction of TD018 which will be in place from this weekend onwards.

Goss said the rule was brought in to stop “clever engineers” and ensure everyone is on a level playing field.

“There are a lot of clever engineers out there looking to get the most out of the regulations and we have to make sure that everyone has a common understanding of where the boundaries are and we have to be fair and balanced across the whole group in how we apply them,” he said.

“And in recent times we have seen a little bit too much freedom being applied to the design details of aerodynamic components.”

The directive has introduced clearer guidance as to how components are joined together in an effort to cut out any flexible parts.

“For us, the important bit of Article 3.2.2 is that ‘all aerodynamic components or bodywork, influencing the car’s aerodynamic performance must be rigidly secured and immobile with respect to their frame of reference and that they must make use a uniform, solid, hard, continuous surface under all circumstances’,” he explained.

“Now, quite clearly things cannot be totally rigid. So, we have a range of load deflection tests that define how much elements can bend and we’ve evolved those tests to represent what the teams are trying to achieve on track and to put a sensible limit on them.

“We play by those rules, while teams look to exploit the allowance in terms of deflection. That’s normal. So the TD is just about making sure that we, the FIA, and the teams, all have a common understanding of where we will draw the line in terms of these design details.

“What we don’t want to see, as an example, is that the joint of a rear beam wing and an end plate is decoupled in any way such that it rotates about a pivot there, or that it can move laterally or up and down.”

The FIA also noted that unlike the majority of technical directives, the need for action was not prompted by teams complaining but instead a required clarification of the rule.

“It’s not that we’ve seen any one particular car or feature that we’ve targeted, or an element that’s been common across the whole grid,” he said.

“This is about where front and rear wing elements join the nose, join the rear impact structure, join the rear wing endplates. And there have been several instances where teams have tried to make the most of the deflection allowance by permitting some bits and pieces to start moving relative to each other.

“And if you’ve allowed one piece to be decoupled relative to another, the bodywork might have to have some degree of local flexibility at that location. And if there is local flexibility, we’re saying, clearly, that’s not compliant with being uniform, solid, hard and continuous.

“Under the TD, we have included various examples, designs which we consider are not permitted and exceptions which we consider are permitted.”

As is often the case, the teams were consulted first in a feedback phase before the technical directive was finalised. recommends

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“With matters such as this we issue the TD in draft form,” he said. “We’ve been speaking to some teams for several weeks where we believed there was a need for clarity, and then issued our proposal to all teams asking for feedback by the 29th of August.

“We then spoke again in Monza, about design details, where teams were asking us about examples. It’s just a matter of fairness to everyone, making sure we all have that common understanding, and that everyone knows how we are going to operate from a given date.”

“Teams have to submit designs at the moment, they upload lots of information but now they will have to upload structural connections and that in itself helps to self-police it.

“This Technical Directive is an example of where ourselves and the teams work together to try and make sure that we have a common understanding and it is a huge positive. It’s not simple, but if we can evolve that understanding in a sensible, considered way then I think we’re going in the right direction.”

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