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FIA to toughen up flexi-tests again

Red Bull and Ferrari, Hungary, 2010The FIA is to ramp up its flexi bodywork tests further for the Italian Grand Prix, AUTOSPORT has learned, in a move to stop teams gaining a potential unfair advantage.

Although it is widely known that the FIA is to increase the loads it uses to test deflection of the front wings from this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix, sources have revealed that even more action is to be taken for the next event in Monza.

Amid mounting speculation that the lower front wings observed on the Red Bull Racing and Ferrari cars are being put into use through clever flexing of the car's floor, rather than the wings flexing down themselves, the FIA is to introduce extra tests on the underside area of the car.

In a document sent to teams during the summer break by Charlie Whiting, FIA technical chiefs have been informed that extra tests are to take place on the floor of the chassis - especially in the 'tea tray' area at the front edge.

The teams have not been told exactly what the tests will be - only that they will take place 380mm behind the front wheel centre line at points 100mm either side of the car centre line.

Furthermore, it is understood that the FIA is to revise the regulations regarding skid blocks, to ensure that joints in this area do not allow freedom that could help the floor to flex.

From the Italian Grand Prix it is understood that the skid block can comprise of no more than two pieces, and that no piece of the skid block can be less than one metre long. A number of teams are understood to use several sections of skid block on the underside of their floor.

To further ensure teams are not deflecting the floor, from Monza all joints, bearing pivots and any other form of articulation must also be fixed.

The move by the FIA comes on the back of weeks of controversy about flexible front wings - with Red Bull Racing and Ferrari's designs having come under intense scrutiny.

At the Hungarian Grand Prix, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said he was surprised by what he had observed on the Red Bull Racing and Ferrari cars.

"Clearly no wing can be infinitely rigid, but there are limits to which they should be allowed to flex," he said. "If you try to explain what is happening, either you can explain it by hugely raked cars - but if you do simple geometry then the ride height would be over 100mm and there is no evidence of that being the case.

"Or you do it by some means of the outer edge of the wings lowering down by more than we expect. Or the front of the floor is moving up further than we expect, because that is another part of bodywork that is intended to be rigidly attached.

"In truth we don't understand it and maybe there is another way but I, as a fairly simple engineer, can't think of anything other than those three explanations. If there is another one then I will be happy to hear it. It is surprising.

"I think the FIA has got to take a view now of what is acceptable, and if it is acceptable, to get the endplates down. Every millimetre is about one point of downforce at the front, although it also improves the rear. So 25-30mm of vertical lowering of the endplates is one second [per lap], so it is fairly substantial."

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