Red Bull: Splitter scandal 2011?

Photo Copyright: Wolfgang Wilhelm/ Auto Motor und Sport

Following on from the Monza footage of the Mark Webbers Red Bull being lifted on a crane over a spectator area (, German Magazine ‘Auto Motor und Sport’ (AMuS) reported that the legality of the front splitter could once again be called into question. The footage shows the wear marks on the skid block (plank) under the car, with the wear focussed across the protruding section of splitter.

Last year Red Bull as well as other teams were suspected of having a flexible splitter. In order to run lower front ride heights to gain more front wing performance, the splitter gets in the way. Making it bend upwards, allows the crucial nose-down raked attitude required to exploit the current rules. So last year the splitter test was made more severe and also included tests to ensure the splitter couldn’t twist to avoid wear.

AMuS suggests the wear on the splitter is limited to this front section of the plank, the splitter ‘bending’ to spread the wear and avoid infringing the rules on post-race plank thickness. (  Wear is evident on the picture (above) of Mark Webbers cars from Monza.  This wear pattern, is backed up by a view of Vettels RB7 being craned off the track at Suzuka (not shown here), which also suggests the wear is focussed to the front 50cm of plank and not merely the leading edge where the FIA measure wear.

When raked, the splitter should wear in a taper from the leading edge

Wear only at the front of the plank is understandable; such is the nose-down attitude of the Red Bull, very little of the rest of the plank is within reach of the ground. But one would expect the wear to take a wedge shape section out of the plank, at an angle similar to the cars angle of rake. Instead the wear is focussed evenly across this front section of floor, indeed this picture suggesting the greater wear is at around 50cm back front the tip of the block.

Looking at the underside of other cars that had been craned off the track at Monza, their wear is across a greater section of plank, with no highspots of wear midway along their length.

Working how Red Bulls unusual wear pattern is created is a conundrum. The wear could simply be the result of going across kerbs during the accidents and doesn’t occur during normal running. Or the wear could be a literal interpretation of the rules, the leading edge meets the FIA vertical load test, but the splitter articulates further back along its length, to present the splitter at a flatter angle to the track to reduce wear and provide a lower front ride height. Such a set up would meet the wording of the rule 3.17.5 on the deflection and construction of the splitter. As the articulation may be at the point where the tail of the splitter meets the chassis and hence not directly affected by the FIA test and inspection of the leading edge of the splitter.

3.17.5 Bodywork may deflect no more than 5mm vertically when a 2000N load is applied vertically to it at three different points which lie on the car centre line and 100mm either side of it. Each of these loads will be applied in an upward direction at a point 380mm rearward of the front wheel centre line using a 50mm diameter ram in the two outer locations and a 70mm diameter ram on the car centre line. Stays or structures between the front of the bodywork lying on the reference plane and the survival cell may be present for this test, provided they are completely rigid and have no system or mechanism which allows non-linear deflection during any part of the test.
Furthermore, the bodywork being tested in this area may not include any component which is capable of allowing more than the permitted amount of deflection under the test load (including any linear deflection above the test load), such components could include, but are not limited to :
a) Joints, bearings pivots or any other form of articulation.
b) Dampers, hydraulics or any form of time dependent component or structure.
c) Buckling members or any component or design which may have, or is suspected of having, any non-linear characteristics.
d) Any parts which may systematically or routinely exhibit permanent deformation.

Regardless, the Red Bull passes the current stringent FIA scrutineering tests and with the precedent set last year, the car is therefore legal.

No further discussions on the subject appeared over the Suzuka weekend, so this doesn’t appear to be an issue. Again it’s left up to the other teams, to find a way to obtain the raked attitude to gain front wing performance, without excessive plank wear.

Thanks to Auto Motor und Sport for the permission to use their photogaphs with in this post.

19 thoughts on “Red Bull: Splitter scandal 2011?

  1. Nice clear explanation. One of many things that add up to make that RBR7 work so well?

    I guess it’s another thing on the list for the other teams to work on for next year, if they can find a way to make a large rake work well enough for it to matter without the EBD. Or the FIA could try doing the load test differently I suppose.

    • I’ve looked at Webbers crash at Valencia in 2010 over and over and the front wings bobbed up and down before contact.Then Vettles crash on Speedvision where the couse worker was holding the front wing with wires hanging out (sensor wires?). Now a cable from the nose to the spitter. They got something going on there. But that car in that KIDS hands is unreal! Everything on it is a couple of years ahead.

  2. Scarb’s, do you think that Red Bull are using their flexi carbon fibre layering to achieve this, or an articulated / sprung solution somehow, similar to Ferrari a few years ago?

    It would be interesting to hear what some of the other technical directors thought of this.

  3. Hi

    after the race everybody was allowed to be on the track. Making one lap with the bike I saw on many areas of high braking force or maximum speed (as were Vettel passed Alonso) traces of the wood sctracking on the tarmac.

    These F1 touch and wear the underfloor and they also may still have some defloction under speed….

  4. As Gordon Murray said with reference to the flexible skirts in the early 1980s: “Everything, every material flexes to a certain amount. […] You can’t build something completely stiff. […]”. I think, if that wear marks came from flexing, it’s the same thing here. The FIA made their clear regualations, Red Bull had an apparently total legal interpretation, otherwise they wouldn’t have passed the technical acceptance, so the other teams have to copy that or find something more effective. But I won’t call that a scandal.

  5. From the color change of the wood we can see wear, BUT we have no idea what the wear levels are at various spots. This could all be wear associated with the accident and not a sign of any unusual flexing.


    • I partly agree, that’s why the post starts with a question mark and offers crash damage as an explanation.I’ve since been sent some more pictures. That might explain the wear. I’ve aslo heard that Mark Hughes froom Aautosport has some revelations on the nose mounting system. I think there may be more noise around RBR if this story is printed.

  6. Any thoughts on Vettel’s strange reaction after his incident in practice in Suzuka? Something has to be going on for him to run back to his car to keep it from getting craned away!

    • Any footage on that? It reminds me of earlier on in the season when Vettel stayed in the car suspiciously long after qualifying for pole (which race was that?).

      Is it conceivable that there is a driver operated way of adjusting the splitter height?
      For instance, the thin (wire?) support going from the monocoque to the splitter. What if a driver could ‘pull that in’ to raise the leading edge slightly. This way the car could be driven with more rake and with the front wing lower to the ground. The kink in the floor that would result from this would match the wear pattern you see on Webber’s car.

      BTW, here’s another picture:

  7. In my mind just because a car passes the tests does not mean it is strictly legal. Compare it to an athlete, If an athlete uses a new drug or doping method that is designed specifically to fool the tests is he not cheating? Once the tests are modified to detect the new drugs the athlete would be banned and stripped of all medals won while doping.

    If an F1 team have developed a component specifically to fool an FIA test then it is in my mind illegal and once detected should be punished. There is a clear difference between designs that get around rules and designs that fool tests.

    • If you think of it like that the F-duct, Double deck diffuser, cold blowing engine maps and the EBD all were illegal as the FIA never intended to have them. I am sure Scarbs would agree that these innovations and “rule book loop holes” is what really makes Formula One interesting and different from any other sport. In case of athletes the competition is of individual abilities while in the case of Formula One it the test of individual driver abilities as well as the vehicle development by the engineers, since there is a constructors championship.

      I think if Red Bull pass all the FIA tests, satisfy all of the Rule Book and still manage to flex their splitter to fetch some performance, it is just some good engineering that is paying off.

      • Not at all the F-duct was fully explained to the FIA and it is this sort of getting around rules that makes F1 great. However if the f-duct had been designed to be hidden from the fia by getting around their tests but secretly performing differently under race conditions then yes it would have been illegal. This is the big difference that I am talking about between cheating and innovating.

    • Lee, I think this was the case in most peoples’ minds prior to last year.
      The technical regulations contain specific scrutineering tests that the bodywork has to pass, and also a separate, general rule against flexible bodywork. But the FIA ruled that since Red Bull’s alleged flexible front wing passed the scrutineering tests, it was completely legal, effectively setting a precedent that the general rule against flexible bodywork can now be ignored. Only the specific scrutineering tests are relevant now.

  8. EBDs are a prime example of breaking a rule blatantly and getting away with it. It is a computer controlled aero device that has been allowed. RBRenault should have been told to stop it last season but nobody did stop it.
    This year the teams were told finally to get rid of the systems but the manufacturers said “no it’s neccessary to keep reliability” so the FIA couldn’t stop it. The EBD is still Illeagle but the teams all continue to develop them.

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