New Aston Martin rear wing ‘doesn’t hurt intent of rules’

Thomas Maher
Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel on track during the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2022.

Aston Martin’s new rear wing design is within the letter and “the intent” of the 2022 ruleset, according to the team’s performance director Tom McCullough.

Aston Martin’s eye-catching new rear wing design was introduced at last month’s Hungarian Grand Prix, with the AMR22 rolling out with a very different solution to what they have used so far this season.

With F1’s new rules for 2022 seeing a revolutionary new rear wing design, Aston Martin’s latest update has seen the introduction of more traditional, ‘squared-off’ leading edges on the rear wing endplates.

While there are no question marks over the legality of the design, the design did raise eyebrows in terms of the ‘spirit’ of the regulations – the rules being introduced in a bid to introduce much closer wheel-to-wheel action, and improving the ability to follow other cars more closely.

“Simulations show ‘no effect’ on the intent of the rules”

As a result of the Aston Martin rear wing design ostensibly increasing the AMR22’s rear downforce using over-body airflow, this could have an effect on the amount of turbulence being generated in the car’s wake – potentially going against the sport’s new philosophy.

But the team’s performance director, Tom McCullough, told media over the Hungarian weekend that the FIA are fully satisfied the design doesn’t go against the intent of the rules.

“It was part of us making sure that it was OK, because the intent of the rules is there,” McCullough said, as quoted by The Race.

“But we were able to show with simulations that it doesn’t have a material effect on that at all. The whole philosophy of the car is so dominant, and the wing [idea] is such a small feature of it.”

McCullough revealed that the governing body were kept fully informed throughout the development phases to ensure the wing design was fully compliant with the regulations.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri. Italy, April 2022.

“We spent months, from our initial interpretation and our understanding, to-ing and fro-ing with the FIA technical department,” he said.

“Then we got the point that once we’d gone through several loops, they agreed that we had satisfied all the technical regulations.

“We then decided to make it, which is why it took a while to come to the track. It took several months from the first contact to the full approval from the FIA.”

What is meant by the ‘intent’ of the rules?

Quite simply, F1 is taking a whole new approach to racing from 2022. While the cars are still designed according to the FIA’s published technical regulations, a proactive and reactive approach will be taken to ensure that major technical innovations don’t hand teams a huge advantage.

Ahead of the 2022 rules being introduced, F1 Managing Director Ross Brawn revealed a large amount of ‘rule-busting’ had taken place. As a former technical director, he, together with other senior F1 and FIA personnel, attempted to identify potential loopholes and grey areas in the rules.

For instance, Brawn himself was responsible for one such loophole in such a rule change, when his eponymous team introduced a ‘double diffuser’ on their 2009 Brawn GP car. The design proved to be a ‘silver bullet’ that many of the other teams hadn’t spotted, and it proved decisive in the outcome of that year’s championship.

So, while measures have been taken for 2022 to try to prevent the possibility of such innovations, a team finding a legal (as defined by the technical regulations) development path that is outside of what is intended under the ‘spirit of the rules’, will likely have that path closed off quite quickly by having revisions made in the regulations.

Aston Martin’s rear wing complies with the rules but, if it’s found to have a detrimental effect on how cars behind can follow, it could be outlawed quite quickly. This is due to the simple fact that, despite the teams being aware of the negative side effects, a performance gain cannot be ignored – meaning the governing body itself would have to intervene.

“I promise you there are nine other teams running that in CFD at the moment and, if it’s quicker, you’ll see nine more of them I imagine,” Alpine‘s Alan Permane told The Race.

“I can’t see why that wouldn’t happen if it’s completely legal. I get the point about the intent of the regs but we just want to go fast and be reliable so that’s really for the FIA and F1 to work out.

“If they’ve circumvented the intent, I doubt there’s anything that can be done about that this year. Possibly for next year but I’m very sure, if it’s faster, then you’ll very soon see more of them.”

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