Mercedes are free to continue using their innovative ‘double DRS’ rear wing after stewards in Shanghai rejected a protest from rival team Lotus on Thursday evening regarding its legality.
Mercedes’ rear wing has holes in its endplates which are exposed when the DRS is activated. Airflow entering the holes is channelled through the chassis to the front wing, where it is released to stall the wing, cutting downforce and boosting top speed in much the same way as the DRS itself does for the rear wing.
Lotus had alleged that Mercedes’ car, which had already cleared scrutineering in China as it did in Australia and Malaysia, contravened Article 3.15 of the technical regulations, which outlaws driver-operated aerodynamic devices.
However, the stewards unanimously dismissed the protest, ruling that Mercedes’ design is not activated by the driver, but as a consequence of the permitted DRS movement. They conceded that it does appear to alter the aerodynamic characteristics of the car by reducing drag, but declared this to be consistent with the intent of the regulations.
Lotus are not expected to appeal the decision, thus clearing the way for any team to push ahead with implementing their own version of the Mercedes design.
The FIA stewards’ decision in full:
The Stewards convened at 17:15 hrs on April 12, 2012 to consider a protest lodged by Lotus F1 Team concerning the Technical Delegate's scrutineering report of April 12, 2012.
The protest was against the eligibility of Cars 7 and 8 entered by Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team wherein it was alleged the cars did not comply with Article 3.15 of the FIA Formula One Technical Regulations.
The protest was lodged in accordance with Article 171 of the International Sporting Code and was lodged within the time prescribed under Article 174 (c).
Appearances at the Hearing;
Representing Lotus F1 Team: Messrs Alan Permane and James Allison
Representing Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team: Messrs Ross Brawn and Geoff Willis
FIA Technical Delegate: Mr Jo Bauer
Mr Allison, in his case on behalf of Lotus, proposed 5 questions that he believed needed to be answered;
1. Does Article 3.15 apply to the device being employed by Mercedes?
2. Does the system comprise any parts that are not "necessary for the adjustment described in Art 3.18"?
3. Can what Mercedes is running be described accurately as a "car system", a "device" or "procedure"?
4. Does the Mercedes device depend upon "driver movement"?
5. Does the Mercedes device "alter the aerodynamic characteristics of the car"?
Mr Allison then asserted that if the answers to all these questions is "yes" then it must be concluded the Mercedes system is prohibited.
Mr Allison also asserted there needed to be a distinction between the "prime" purpose of a "device" and a secondary purpose or consequential outcome.
He argued that the Mercedes device has a prime purpose of altering the aerodynamic characteristics of the car.
Mr Allison later provided the Stewards with written grounds for the protest (Exhibit B). Mr Brawn, for the Respondent Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, provided the Stewards with a detailed paper outlining its response (Exhibit A). This paper contains certain confidential Intellectual Property and could not be provided to Lotus however Mr Brawn presented the key points of his response verbally, which were;
1. The "device" or "design" contains no moving parts.
2. There are no upper limitations provided in the regulations on what can be achieved using DRS apart from what is written in the current regulations. He provided examples of teams making modifications to other parts of cars to take advantage of the different airflow resulting when DRS is activated.
3. The "device" or "system" being protested against (commonly referred to within the team as "DDRS" or "Double DRS") was simply an enhancement to the existing DRS but made after DRS was originally introduced. Therefore is was wrong to discriminate against any enhancement simply because it has been introduced after the original introduction of DRS
4. There is nothing in the regulations preventing a hole in the inner side of the rear end plate and a duct running to the front of the car to take account of a change in the aero characteristics when DRS was operated and that this was an evolution to improve the performance of the DRS.
Mr Allison argued that the Mercedes device being protested was not a part of DRS and indeed that "DRS" was not a term defined in the regulations. He also argued that there was a substantial difference between other modifications made to the car which had aero impacts compared to the modifications made to the Mercedes.
Mr Allison agreed in response to questioning that there is nothing in the regulations that prevents an aero link between the front and rear wings but that the protest centred on the fact the link created was for the sole purpose of using a driver-created movement to alter the aerodynamics of the car.
He stated that if the hole currently located in the rear end plate was located elsewhere and permanently exposed, this would be acceptable.
In response Mr Brawn argued that the regulations do not state how much effect can be gained from DRS and that the Mercedes system was passive. He advised that almost all cars on the grid had made improvements to the aerodynamics of parts of the cars so that they reacted better to the airflow when DRS was activated and in some cases this had increased the speed by 17 to 20 kph as opposed to the initial increase using DRS of 10 kph (Mr Allison argued that the initial advantage was 12 kph).
Mr Willis asserted that all the teams had developed their bodywork to react to the movement in the upper rear wing flap.
Mr Bauer noted that it was not possible to operate the new Mercedes device in isolation to the normal DRS, it was not independent of it.
He also advised that Mercedes has sought clarification on the device prior to the first Grand Prix of 2012 and that he had confirmed to the team prior to the Australian Formula One Grand Prix that the design was permissible.
Note: In relation to the absence of a definition of the term "DRS", Article 3.18 makes several references to the word "systems" and the term "Drag Reduction System" has been widely used within Formula One and the FIA. For the purpose of this deliberation, it is taken to mean the "system" referred to under article 3.18.1 "Driver adjustable bodywork"
Having examined the evidence presented, the Stewards DECIDE unanimously that the Protest is DISMISSED.
The grounds for this decision are:
1. There are many different parts of bodywork fitted to cars from a variety of teams, which have been designed specifically to take advantage of the change in airflow caused by the activation of the DRS.
2. The modifications on Cars 7 and 8 are examples of the above.
3. The Mercedes design complies with all bodywork geometric and stiffness regulations.
4. The design is entirely passive and has no moving parts whatsoever.
5. The sole purpose of the "DRS" (or the "system" as referred to in the regulations) as stated in Article 3.18.3, is to improve overtaking. The Mercedes design is completely consistent with this objective.
6. . Noting the agreement of Lotus that "if the hole currently located in the rear end plate was located elsewhere and permanently exposed, this would be acceptable", there is no reason why the locating of the hole is the current position on Cars 7 and 8 should not also be acceptable. 7. In relation to the 5 questions posed by Lotus, all 5 of which Lotus assert (and the Stewards agree) if answered in the affirmative, would rule the vehicles ineligible;
(i) Article 3.15 does not apply because it does not directly use driver movement, as a means of altering the aerodynamic characteristics of the car. The alteration is indirectly (and not directly) consequential to the movement of the driver adjustable bodywork ("DRS")
(ii) The second question posed is not relevant in light of (i) above
(iii) The Mercedes design is not a "system" or "device" in its own right, it is part of a design made to take advantage of the change in airflow caused by the activation of the DRS (refer 1 above)
(iv) The Mercedes design is not activated by driver movement. It is a consequence of a change of position of the driver adjustable bodywork, which is permitted under the regulations.
(v) The Mercedes design does appear to alter the aerodynamic characteristics of the car by reducing the drag, however this is consistent with the intent of the regulations.
Accordingly not all of the 5 questions can be answered in the affirmative and therefore do not form successful grounds for the upholding of the protest.
Further, and distinct from the grounds above, the protest is dismissed on the grounds that the FIA confirmed the assertion of the Mercedes team that it had, in accordance with Article 2.4 and/or 2.5 of the F1 Technical Regulations, sought clarification from the FIA Formula One Technical Department concerning this matter and the FIA confirmed that the Mercedes design had been deemed permissible.
All parties are reminded of their Right of Appeal.