Max Verstappen makes subtle dig at Lewis Hamilton in April
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Red Bull ace Max Verstappen is set to suffer a blow as the FIA have clamped down on the design of car floors. Verstappen has been in fine form this season and has a lead of 34 points at the top of the F1 Drivers’ Championship standings.
The current rules allow teams to have 2mm of flexibility in the bodywork of their cars within the area defined as the plank. But, crucially, the rules only apply to two positions on the floor of the car – the leading edge of the plank and slightly further back.
Measurements are not taken at the rear where the driver sits. And, according to The Race, some teams are believed to have engineered the plank and skid block in a way that gives a degree of cushioning. The skids are likely to be flexing more than the permitted 2mm, which means they can be used more aggressively without wearing away.
Red Bull and Ferrari are two teams that are believed to have benefitted from the design quirk. And Mercedes chief Toto Wolff admits he is surprised by the revelations.
“Nobody had an idea until the FIA brought it up in the last Technical Advisory Committee, which was to a great surprise of all the teams because what’s in the regulations, and what was the intent of the regulations, is pretty clear,” Wolff said. “There is no argument why that could deflect more than what’s in the regs. A bit of a surprise to say the least – more of a shocker.”
The FIA have now issued new instructions to teams as they look to get on top of porpoising issues and the harsh ride quality that comes with stiffer, lower cars. F1 teams have now been given a revised technical directive which includes a complicated metric that the FIA can use to measure acceptable levels of vertical oscillations.
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And Mercedes head of trackside engineering Andrew Shovlin thinks his team will close the gap on Red Bull and Ferrari when the FIA have their crackdown. “When it came to light, we realised there are opportunities we’ve perhaps not been taking or exploiting,” he said. “So it won’t affect us in how we run our car. It may well be it affects our competitors and by virtue of that we move a bit closer.”
Meanwhile, Red Bull chief Christian Horner isn’t surprised that the FIA are making the change. “Well, obviously it’s a key performance factor so you can understand why they’re looking at it,” the 48-year-old said. “So it’s something that, as the regulators, they are closely looking at, that there’s no abuse of it. But it has to be subjective.”
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