Mercedes' radical idea banned for 2023 F1 season
Mercedes' radical front wing endplate and Aston Martin's rear wing have been made illegal through changes in F1's technical regulations. During the season, both concepts raised eyebrows when introduced. While compliant with the wording of the rules and hence deemed legal by the FIA, they appear to go against the broad concept that car designs to increase performance should not make it harder for cars to follow each other.
Mercedes' front wing endplate first made an appearance at the 2022 F1 Miami GP and featured a unique design at the intersection between the flapped section and the endplate. This was done in order to try to recoup some of the outwash that was lost due to the new regulations. The flaps were swept forward very aggressively in the outer section, so the rear lower edge of the endplate was completely detached from the flaps.
The FIA allowed the Mercedes concept to be used this year, but formal tweaks have been made to the 2023 F1 technical regulations to ensure that these gray areas are tidied up. Speaking to the media about the changes in technical regulations, the FIA's single-seater technical director Nikolas Tombazis said:
"Obviously this year they were both legal. The regulations have changed on both the front and the rear in different ways to stop those solutions."
FIA's explanation of why the Mercedes concept was banned
Nikolas Tombazis made it clear that one of the reasons why the FIA moved to tidy up those gray areas was due to the essence of the technical regulations. The regulations stipulate that any performance development should not make it difficult for the cars to follow each other and the Mercedes innovation was not fulfilling that entirely.
"An important objective of the Regulations in Article 3 is to enable cars to race closely, by ensuring that the aerodynamic performance loss of a car following another car is kept to a minimum. In order to verify whether this objective has been achieved, Competitors may be required on request to supply the FIA with any relevant information. Some of these things where we changed the rules are in that category."
"But that article [3.2] wasn't intended that: 'Okay, if you're smart and you have a solution, we're going to take it off the car immediately.' It just gave an explanation about sometimes why we have to intervene with the regulations. But we've still done it via governance. We don't have the right to just say: 'we don't like this, let's ban it.'"
The Aston Martin innovation on its rear wing also suffered from the same fate as the FIA has banned that upgrade as well.