Mercedes front wing: Toto Wolff insists new technical innovation is legal at pre-season testing in Bahrain | F1 News

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the team are comfortable with the legality of the front wing on their new 2024 car after conversations with the FIA during its conception, with the design having proved an early point of intrigue at F1 testing.

George Russell drove the new-look W15 car on the first day of testing on Wednesday, with Lewis Hamilton taking over driving duties on Thursday, and opted to focus on gathering data as he completed 122 laps and finished 12th on the timesheets that were topped by Max Verstappen.

But it was intrigue over the wing design which proved an early talking point due to the presence of a minuscule flap that connects the top part of the wing to the nosecone, with the Brackley team seemingly having found an ingenious loophole two years after F1’s regulations were changed to ban detached wing elements as part of a wider push to improve the ability of cars to race more closely together by improving the airflow given off by them.

As usual with innovation in F1, teams’ design departments regularly run their ideas past the FIA during the conception phase for clarity and guidance against the regulations, and Wolff says Mercedes are comfortable with their position.

“What has been put on the car is always following an exchange with the FIA, all through the process,” said Wolff.

“It’s no such a thing that you have a clever idea and then you bolt it on to test and you think that could be or couldn’t be challenged.

“That is a long process of dialogue that happens over the winter. So I feel we’re in an ok place.”

BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 21: George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15 during the Pre-Season Test at Bahrain International Circuit on Wednesday February 21, 2024 in Sakhir, Bahrain. (Photo by Zak Mauger / LAT Images)
Mercedes’ new front-wing element on the top flap near the middle of the wing has got the paddock talking

Is Mercedes’ new wing within spirit of the rules?

With the wing a topic of conversation, F1’s chief technical officer Pat Symonds, who was part of the team that devised the 2022 rules, described the Mercedes design as “a very interesting interpretation” and questioned whether such a solution was “within the spirit of the rules”.

“What is interesting is that in Article 3 [of the Technical Regulations] which really dictates how the aerodynamic shapes are produced, it’s very clear in the opening statements that the aim of the rules is to ensure we get this close following [of cars],” Symonds told Sky Sports F1‘s Ted Kravitz.

“So really when you start to get things that are perhaps producing some outwash – and here I think what we are seeing is really trying to reinstate quite a strong vortex to push that very turbulent air that is coming from the front wheels aside – one questions then ‘is that really within the spirit of the rules?’

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says the ongoing investigation into his Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner over alleged inappropriate behaviour is ‘an issue for all of Formula 1’.

“It’s within the regulations, it’s within the letter of the law, there’s absolutely no doubt about it. Is it the sort of thing we want? I don’t know, that’s perhaps a bit more debatable.

“But I think we need to know really how strong is the effect. The FIA now have a very good aerodynamic group, the group that used to work for me, that are capable of looking at these things and saying ‘yeah, there’s actually nothing wrong with that’ or ‘hang on, this is starting a trend we don’t really want to see’. So they will have seen that.”

The 2022 regulations were made in a bid to improve racing and the ability to follow cars closely.

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Ted Kravitz takes a first look at the new bold 2024 Red Bull during the first day of testing in Bahrain.

Symonds, who was an engineer at Benetton, Renault, Virgin and Williams, added: “It’s more a question of what’s good for the sport rather than what’s good for Mercedes, what’s good for Red Bull,” he added.

“Of course, I’ve jumped the fence a few years ago [from working for a team] and so now I’m trying to look at what’s good for the sport and without a doubt what’s good for the sport is good close racing. So anything that promotes good racing is, anything that detracts from that ability to race closely is poor in my mind.”

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Max Verstappen went fastest in his Red Bull after the opening day of testing from Bahrain.

Sky Sports F1’s pre-season testing schedule

Thursday February 22 – Day Two

  • 6.50am-11.05am: Morning Session
  • 11.55am-4.05pm: Afternoon Session
  • 8pm: Testing Wrap
  • 8.30pm: Ted’s Testing Notebook

Friday February 23 – Day Three

  • 6.50am-11.05am: Morning Session
  • 11.55am-4.05pm: Afternoon Session
  • 8pm: Testing Wrap
  • 8.30pm: Ted’s Testing Notebook
  • 9pm: Development Corner

When is the first F1 race?

Just one week after testing, the opening race of the 2024 season will begin with the Bahrain Grand Prix from February 29 to March 2.

Due to the Muslim holy period of Ramadan, the Bahrain and, seven days later, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, will be held on a Saturday.

This means practice one and two will take place on Thursdays, with final practice and qualifying on Fridays.

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Watch pre-season testing live and then every round of the new season, starting with the Bahrain Grand Prix from February 29-March 2. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership