UPDATE: “See-saw” Splitter, FIA issue a Technical Directive

Before the Korean GP, I published a proposal for a flexible but legal splitter (https://scarbsf1.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/a-legal-but-flexible-t-tray-splitter-the-see-saw-solution/). This so-called See-Saw arrangement of the T-tray splitter was a response to the need for the splitter to deflect to allow a low front wing ride height, but still meet the FIA tests. It’s design was influenced by unusual wear marks seen on cars at previous races. My blog post was provocative, as I did not personally believe it is legal. But, by playing devils advocate, it was clear a case could be made for the See-Saw splitters legality. I had seen no direct evidence such a splitter is in use in F1 and I had no information suggesting that it might have been used in the past.

It was therefore a great surprise when I was tipped off that the FIA had sent out a Technical Directive (TD) on the matter during the Korean GP weekend. It transpired that a top teams Chief Designer had approached the FIA to propose they wanted to use just such a solution for their 2012 car. In the teams communication to the FIA Technical Delegate Charlie Whiting, the See-Saw concept was drawn and described as a method to ensure the splitter isn’t damaged by contact the ground, thus making the car more reliable and damage prone. The request further explained the reaction force provided by the FIA test rig, allowed the more complaint splitter to still meet the FIA deflection test. This being possible even without a kinematic fixing joint (i.e.not having a moving bearing or pivot as the splitters fulcrum point).
Its not unusual for teams to take this approach in protesting another teams car. Its less confrontational, as they argue the technologies legality, rather directly protesting another team. There have been several instances of this in the past. The team probably weren’t seriously wanting to use the See-Saw splitter, nor did they feel its use was for reliability reasons. More that they were concerned another team were currently gaining an advantage from its use and wanted the design exposed and its legality confirmed.

The FIA’s response was a technical directive, coded TD35.  It’s not surprising that it confirmed such an splitter would not be legal. But, crucially the FIA confirmed that they reserve the right to alter the test to ensure the deflection test procedure isn’t being exploited. Therefore future scrutineering checks, may well include an inspection of the splitters mounting and conducting the deflection test with the cars weight bearing down at different points, rather than sat flat on top of its plank.

Several personnel within F1 teams have since contacted me on this subject. Its been suggested that such a construction is, or has been used in F1. The catalyst for this design was the further restriction on splitters after the Ferrari\McLaren protest in 2007. But with the further restriction on splitter mounting and deflection announced at Monza Last year, the See-Saw solution may have become even more useful in 2011.

As yet the change to the FIA testing procedure has not been detailed. Although the Indian GP weekend will be the first chance for the FIA to act on this technical directive with revised checks. It will be interesting to hear if any teams are asked to alter their splitter construction as a result of this.

22 thoughts on “UPDATE: “See-saw” Splitter, FIA issue a Technical Directive

    • As an engineer, my main interest in F1 is the technology and the teams’ developments in regards to the rules. This blog significantly enhances my enjoyment of F1.

  1. I have followed this see saw argument and have a different possibility to consider .. is it not possible that the second patch of plank wear is/was ground into the plank to create more downforce. A slight dip (still within the plank legality dimensions) would indeed create a bit of a low pressure area under the plank, resulting in add’l downforce. Though seemingly slight it’s well placed and every little thing contributes.

      • Well it’s hard to say whether it would be the black area you refer to, but it doesn’t take much of divet to create a low pressure area under there. I would more consider the area between the leading edge and the black area but it could also be after the black area. And would they paint it black? I’m not sure .. probably leave it raw to made to be wear ..

    • Yes but the plank itself is subject to wear inspection after the race so one would have to be very sure that no other wear could occur during the race. It would only need a couple of excursions over curbing to plane a few mills off the plank. Of course the FIA could use a shadowgraph to measure wear over the plank instead of just in the measuring holes. If as you advocate a concave section were ground into the plank it could easily be possible to pass wear tests on the measuring holes.
      Further a shadowgraph could also be used to test height above the track with a set of FIA solid wheel forms mounted. These could be manufactured with advice from Pirelli as to the effective working diameter of the tyre at speed. The ride height is of course variable by tyre type, pressure and wear level. What is really needed is a big rise in the minimum permitted ride height so that the amount of bend necessary to start producing ground effect is so large as to be immediately obvious.

      • I disagree about tightening rules up .. leave them have their little tweaks. Doesn’t anyone have a problem with F1 turning into a pure spec series?

        Some things over the past few years have been obvious cheats .. double deck diffusers and F ducts come to mind .. should have never been legalized .. but this little stuff? My God, let it go .. next year will be terrible to watch as diffusers take another rules hit. It’s all going to be about rear tire wear. This is the pinnacle of motor racing?

      • @Breezy

        I disagree with you as you have it the wrong way around. The F-duct and the double diffusers were certainly not cheating as they were designed to sit within the rules. The FIA were made fully aware of the devices and could perform full scrutineering on them as a result. This moving splitter however is designed to sit outside of the rules but designed in a way that it hides itself from testing.

        You are correct to say that we should let the workarounds exist in F1 as that is the whole point of the engineering side of the sport, but you have the cheating parts the wrong way around.

      • In regards to Lee .. thanks for straightening me out there buddy .. I thought I had opinion but I guess not.

        Anyway, anyone who sees the Fduct as anything other than a driver controlled aero device is kidding themselves. As for the double deck diffuser *during the first year* the wording from the outside working group made possible what a few had imagined. Anyone who read the wording knew there was something going on there . thus 3 teams debuted with it and red bull was specifically told it was not legal during the design phase. That’ll teach ’em to ask, eh?

        I think 2012 will be a messed up year given the added restrictions on blown diffusers. That will act to mitigate DRS, (how you gonna use DRS much on a car that is already lose?) which was a great addition to F1 by my reckoning. I really think they should allow (some may view this with a bit of irony) double diffusers again. The racing and technology will be even better then.

      • @ Breezy

        Of course the F-duct is driver controlled aero – that’s why, in order for them to ban it, they added a rule to remove driver controlled aero devices. Before that, it was clearly legal.

      • @Breezy

        It is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of within or against the rules. The F-duct and double diffusers were clever ways of working within the letter of the rules. Therefore they were legal until the rules were changed. The flexible splitter is designed specifically to be hidden from the FIA or designed to get around the tests rather then the rules. They are two very different things.

  2. We all thank you very much for your helping us, the fans, out in understanding the details. Have any teams ever approached you and ask you to not divulge something before? As much as we like the insight I can’t see the teams being as cheerful about their secrets!

  3. Lil ol’ Craig Scaraborough, spoting what FIA didn’t. Congratulations! I am most impressed and proud to be a frequent visitor to your Blog Sir!

    Maybe FIA should open doors to whatever test public might suggest in times like this when leading team obviously exploits various loopholes. Briliant observers from around the world like You could spot such clever devices and contraptions and help FIA. FIA has a limited budget and number of engineers but Clever observers are unlimited in time and devotion to spot such details.

    Good job!

  4. Craig,

    This is all very interesting and I am still a bit surprised it has taken your blog to spur the FIA into action…

    Do you have any idea at all which teams are rumored to be running movable splitters? (obviously apart from Red Bull)

  5. In addition to that, how easy would it be for us to find out which teams have been asked to change their splitter construction? If we couldn’t find it out could other teams do so?

  6. Pingback: Sutil wants Force India decision before December | F1 Fanatic – The Formula 1 Blog

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