We all still remember what happened in 2022 with TD39, the technical directive issued by the FIA mid-season to limit the porpoising phenomenon. Many did not appreciate this decision as it changed the regulations during the season. A similar process could repeat this year since the TD018 directive will come into effect in Singapore, where the FIA aims to limit the phenomenon of flexible wings. Let’s analyze the various aspects of this new regulation.
Why do teams try to make wings flex?
First and foremost, it’s essential to clarify that this is not a change to target a specific team. Indeed, several teams will likely have to modify their wings. The focus here is not so much on the flexing of the entire wing but on specific, deliberately sought deformations in specific areas to gain aerodynamic advantages.
There are multiple advantages to having flexible aerodynamic appendages. Having a front wing that “retracts” at high speeds generates less drag and allows for higher top speeds. Furthermore, this allows teams to adjust the car’s balance based on the speed in a corner. At low speeds, the wing returns to its “natural position,” producing the maximum possible downforce.
Why will the FIA introduce the TD018 directive in Singapore? The technical director’s explanation
In an interview with The Race, Tim Goss, FIA’s technical director, explained the reasoning behind introducing a new technical directive. “We want the FIA and the teams to have a common view of where we will set the limit. The TD states that we expect to see flexion or rotation uniformly on the parts we will test. We are saying that the wings can move or rotate but must do so uniformly along their span. What we don’t want to see is that some components have localized movement relative to other components and that they can move around a pivot. There can no longer be relative movements between adjacent components, such as between the beam wing and the wing’s endplate. The assembly must move as a single body, and no part of it must have different movement than another.”
The FIA’s objective is clear. Teams can still make their wings flex within the already established limits, but they cannot “play” with material combinations and profiles to achieve localized deformations in strategically important aerodynamic areas.
Is this new directive necessary?
The current regulations already include provisions to limit the flexibility of aerodynamic parts. Article 3.2.2, in particular, states: “All aerodynamic components or bodywork influencing the car’s aerodynamic performance must be rigidly secured and immobile with respect to their frame of reference defined in Article 3.3. In addition, these components must form, in all circumstances, a uniform, solid, hard, continuous, and impermeable surface.”
Naturally, in reality, it’s impossible to have an infinitely rigid body, so there are certain tolerances. The FIA conducts static tests on various cars to verify that they indeed fall within the limits defined by the regulations. For instance, these tests are carried out on the front wing, rear wing, and various wing flaps, determining how much each of them can flex. Despite the evolution and improvement of these tests over time, they are still static tests, and it’s impossible to account for all load conditions on every part of the car. For this reason, it’s plausible that teams can surpass these limits without exceeding the globally imposed flexibility values defined by the regulations.
This new directive helps the FIA clarify what is allowed and what is not. It seeks to impose an additional limit on flexibility since it’s impossible to eliminate it entirely. There was already talk of this in 2021, especially regarding rear wings, which sparked considerable controversy.
What will be prohibited by TD018?
The TD018 text, which will come into effect in Singapore, precisely outlines what will no longer be permitted. There are four constructive schemes that have been banned. The first two concern vertical, longitudinal, lateral, and rotational movement of wing profiles concerning the point on the chassis to which they are fixed. It is also prohibited to use flexible material connections in adjacent sections of wing profiles that can deform under load and alter the flow to create an aerodynamic advantage. Finally, profiles with a “soft” trailing edge to prevent cracking following flexion will not be allowed.
How will the teams be monitored?
The FIA requested teams to send all the details of their projects by September 8th so they could perform compliance checks. In particular, they asked for all assembly drawings related to the attachment of the front wing to the nose, rear wing flap attachment to the endplates, pylons, and rear impact structure attachment. Once all the drawings are verified, the FIA will provide feedback to the teams that must be ready to rectify any non-compliance issues.
Additional static load tests with new controls to verify relative movements between components will be conducted in Singapore. The load application and removal speed will be increased. Tim Goss also explained that video checks will be carried out to assess the potential presence of “suspicious” movements on aerodynamic surfaces.
Will this change the grid positions?
As mentioned earlier, the TD018 directive that the FIA will introduce in Singapore is not intended to target a specific team. In theory, it should not completely revolutionize the playing field, but some changes could occur. As we’ve seen throughout the season, the group behind Red Bull is very close-knit, and small adjustments can significantly alter the order of the challengers. Therefore, it remains to be seen if some teams will struggle more than others. The FIA’s objective is not to impact the competitiveness of various teams but to tighten regulations regarding flexible wings, ensuring alignment across the board.
This will not be the last time we hear about wing flexibility. Engineers and designers will always seek new ideas and ways to gain an advantage, potentially bypassing regulations. This, for better or worse, has always been part of Formula 1’s history and is perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of the sport.