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Bell: FIA ruling on McLaren wing 'a complete joke'

13 March 2010

Whilst most of the paddock accepted the FIA's ruling that McLaren's contentious rear wing design on its MP4-25 is legal, it seems not everybody is quite as willing to let the matter rest – with Renault F1 technical director Bob Bell slating the judgement as 'ridiculous', 'irresponsible' and 'a complete joke'.

The concept – which incorporates a special aerodynamic device whereby the driver, when inside the cockpit, is able to use his knee to close an air vent on the left of the car to stall the rear wing and in so doing reduce drag and improve straight-line speed, before opening it again so as not compromise downforce through the corners – was given the green light by the governing body during a technical inspection on Thursday in Sakhir [see separate story – click here], ahead of this weekend's F1 2010 curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix in the desert kingdom.

The decision has seemingly assuaged the likes of Red Bull Racing and Ferrari – who brought the matter to light in the first place – but not others, with Bell maintaining that whilst deemed 'legal' according to the letter of the law the, inlet is nonetheless against the spirit of the rules and talks held between members of FOTA's Technical Working Group.

The Englishman went on to warn that by approving it, the FIA risks pre-empting another 'arms race' in the top flight whereby rival teams seek now to hastily come up with their own interpretations of the various loopholes in the regulations in an age that is ostensibly committed to cost-cutting rather than big-spending.

“I totally disagree with the FIA's view on it,” the man who acted as stand-in team principal at Renault last year – following the departure in disgrace of Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds over 'Singapore-gate' – told the BBC. “It's fundamentally clear in all the discussions that have taken place over many years that the sport did not want stallable rear wings, whether it was through physical deflection or any other mechanism.

“The fact that somebody has turned up and just driven a horse and cart straight through the rule that teams cannot use moveable aerodynamic devices on their cars, through the spirit of the regulations, the intent of the regulations and everybody's understanding, to me is just a complete joke.

“It may conform to the letter of the rules, but I don't think in an instance like this that that's sufficient, because there has been plenty of precedent for concepts where it has just quite plainly been said that the intention with the sport is to prevent stalling of rear wings – and this flies in the face of that. It is fundamentally illegal.

“I think it's ridiculous in this era when we're all trying to save money. We're restricted in the number of people we can bring to the track, mechanics are working ridiculous hours at nights to prepare the car, and there we are, we've just opened another arms race that's going to cost everybody a lot of money. It's just a nonsense. The FIA has acted irresponsibly; the governing body needs to be a lot stronger with these things.

Despite threats of a further protest against the FIA's decision, Renault has subsequently confirmed that it will accept the ruling.

The only moveable aerodynamic device permitted in F1 – after all the rest were outlawed in the wake of a number of spectacular accidents in the late 1960 – is an adjustable flap on the front wing. Another hurdle for McLaren's competitors is the fact that with monocoques now homologated for the entire season, playing catch-up will be no easy task. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, however, acknowledges that now they need to simply shut up and get on with it.

“It was obvious from testing that they were doing something a bit different, and we just wanted to know whether it was illegal or innovative,” the first man to raise concerns about the invention is quoted as having said by ITV-F1. “Apparently it was innovative. It's a little bit like the double-diffuser [in 2009], but there's no point bleating about it. The governing body feels it's legal, so therefore we'll all end up developing it and pursuing those kinds of derivatives.

“I think this is nowhere near the magnitude of the effect on performance that the double-diffuser had. You can see that the double-diffusers on all the cars this year are absolutely ginormous, and it's somewhat ironic that the team that introduced it now wants to get rid of it for 2011! This falls more into innovative design. It operates certainly against the intent of the regulations, but the FIA feels it is okay so that means it's an avenue that we will pursue.”


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