Date:Thursday April 12 2012
The Mercedes rear wing row has dragged on into a third Grand Prix and Lotus, as previously expected, have now filed an official protest with the FIA.
Speaking before the protest was made, Mercedes boss Ross Brawn remained confused about why the situation was still ongoing.
'I think it is disappointing after three races that we are still in this situation, The system hasn't changed and the FIA's position hasn't changed, and as far as I understand their arguments haven't changed. So if they protest now, why didn't they protest in Australia? There is nothing new.'
It's a very good question and why now?
The Mercedes system has been well documented for around a month now and it would seem to be quite clear how it works.
The concept is, in a way, similar to the F-duct-type device which had previously been developed by McLaren and others in previous seasons.
That concept has been banned as any device which is seen as driver operated is now deemed as illegal by the FIA.
Mercedes version appears to be a hole on the rear wing endplate. The purpose of it appears to be to direct air to the front wing of the car, to basically give it a straightline speed boost.
In Australia the Mercedes was regularly around 8kph quicker than Red Bull in the speedtraps, giving them good performances in qualifying and were also strong through the two DRS Zone's in the race.
It works when the driver activates the DRS, the rear wing moves, which then uncovers the hole and immediately it begins to directed air to the front wing to 'stall it' for a speed boost.
As it appears to be only active when the driver enables the DRS their argument is that it is illegal.
FIA race director Charlie Whiting didn't agree, he of course has had a detailed look at the Mercedes design and knows and understands exactly how it works, something the other teams do not have the benefit of.
It might be against the spirit of the rules as McLaren have said, but it doesn't appear to directly break the regulations and Mercedes believe the concept has been in place for two years.
'It is a matter of record that in 2010 Charlie [Whiting] stated that such a system was legal. It is in the minutes of the [technical] working group meetings. The question was asked and he stated his opinion then that he considered it legal. It has not been going on for three races. It has been going on for two years.' Brawn added.
Which again begs the question, why protest now?
The Lotus protest comes under article 3.15 of the technical regulations. If you do not have your book to hand, the important quote is as follows: 'With the exception of the parts necessary for the adjustment described in Article 3.18, any car system, device or procedure which uses driver movement as a means of altering the aerodynamic characteristics of the car is prohibited,'
So basically because the device becomes active when a driver activates the DRS, they believe the device is driver enabled, which was their complaint over a month ago, so again why now?
The protest even includes a €2,000 deposit, small change for a Formula One team, but a measure of their intent?
The Mercedes system is difficult to copy, Ross Brawn has already admitted this, which also means that if Mercedes are forced to take it off their car, a big part of their design concept is taken away from them.
'If the protest is upheld and Mercedes have to change the design of their car then that is effectively their season written off, It would be a big hit and they will be fighting tooth and nail to get this protest turned down.' Sky Sports Ted Kravitz told their news channel.
The fact that making the device illegal will hurt Mercedes more than if Lotus simply copied it, is probably one of the major reasons behind the protest.
Date:Thursday April 12 2012
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