The new, wider, driver-adjustable front wings being used in Formula 1 in 2009 will need to be treated with extreme care if serious accidents are not to result, stresses Robert Kubica.
The Pole knows all about major accidents, having suffered one of his own during the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal two years ago – widely regarded as the most spectacular and terrifying 'off' in recent F1 memory. As his BMW-Sauber's front wing sheared off, the car lifted off the ground and hit a concrete retaining wall head-on, before somersaulting back across the track once more.
That he escaped practically unscathed from the impact – precipitated by contact with the Toyota of Jarno Trulli – was little short of miraculous, but he fears more such incidents could occur in the heat of battle in 2009.
The new front wings are part of significant aerodynamic changes for the forthcoming season designed to facilitate overtaking, but are 400mm wider and lower to the ground than before, and crucially not visible from inside the cockpit.
Kubica explained that he had experienced a number of near misses into the first corner in 2008 – when the wings were much narrower – whilst adding that he doubted whether they would help drivers much in endeavouring to pass another car.
“We have to be really careful with this huge front wing, [which is] wider than the tyres,” the 24-year-old is quoted as having said by international news agency Reuters
. “Not only at the first corner, but especially when you think you have overtaken the guy and you close the line, now you can easily take off his wing. This wing is huge and it will go under the car.
“You might change the wing setting during the lap if you have some problems in some sectors, but I don't think it's a powerful tool to increase opportunities for overtaking.”
The man from Kraków also pointed to the accident suffered by Luciano Burti during the 2001 Belgian Grand Prix, when the Brazilian's Prost machine was in collision with the Jaguar of former team-mate Eddie Irvine. With a dislodged front wing, Burti was sent flat-out into the tyre barriers and left with facial bruising and concussion – and his F1 career at an end.
BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen acknowledged that the Munich and Hinwil-based concern was preparing itself to build more front wings than ever before, whilst Kubica's team-mate Nick Heidfeld agreed that the new designs could take some getting accustomed to.
“If you've been in F1 for a couple of years you're used to the old wings,” the experienced German contended. “I could imagine that in situations where you have to act very quickly without a lot of thinking, when the cars are close together like at the start, we might see a few more touches.”