Red Bull's rubber nose: What's all the fuss?
The Milton-Keynes based outfit are never far away from controversy. When Sebastian Vettel pitted in the Safety Car period after having damaged his front wing by hitting a DRS marker board, the team came under heavy scrutiny. As can be seen in the above image, when the broken front wing was being taken off, one mechanic seems to be ‘bending’ the nose. This is what caused a furore in the media with some sections labelling it as illegal.
But the FIA didn’t think it was breaking the rules because according to them, all teams make the nosecone a bit softer than other parts because it is not structural and not subjected to the flexi-tests of the governing body. Also, having the nose less rigid helps the teams to pass the crash tests before the start of the season and prevents causing serious injury to the drivers in case of a T-bone collision.
To prevent such flexing from happening, the FIA already toughened their front wing flexi-tests this year. But Red Bull have been able to pass those tests and even then take advantage of aerodynamic benefits by flexing their nose to some extent and hence flexing the front wing in entirety.
What Race Director Charlie Whiting had to say about this saga:-
“I think rigidity, or lack of it, on some front wings has been the subject of a lot of discussion,” he explained. “We’ve attempted to introduce some new tests, which not only tests its vertical deflection but also torsional stiffness of the front wing as well. And we’re going to take a step further next year as well.
“It will be a matter of applying the load. At the moment we apply the load at 790mm forward of the front axle. We are going to move that forward 15cm and back 15cm – so we will do two tests [in those areas].”
Whiting also said he had no concerns about the visible flexibility of the nose tip of the Red Bull car – which was highlighted in a video of it during a pit stop at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – as all cars feature lighter than normal bodywork in that area.
“What you saw on the Red Bull at the last race was extreme, as they had cameras on that part and the guy was actually twisting those cameras to try and get the nose off,” he said.
“I think if other cars had cameras mounted in those places and they did the same thing to get the nose off then they would do something very similar. We are satisfied that the Red Bull car is no more flexible than anybody else in that area so it was a rather strange phenomenon – which I don’t think anyone was expecting to see – but there was a perfectly logical explanation for it.”
Adrian Newey and his team have always touched the limits of the regulations – and sometimes even crossed them – since their metronomic success starting way back in 2009, so this is not something new. We can expect the team to touch many other such grey areas in the regulations in the near future.