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Alpine: Flexi-wing push motivated by weight saving

The push for flexi-wings in Formula 1 was motivated more by saving weight than any straightline speed advantage, says Alpine executive director Marcin Budkowski.

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521

Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

With new tougher pull back tests being introduced from the French Grand Prix later this month, F1 teams will have a final chance to run with their previous flexible designs for this weekend’s race in Baku.

However, there remains the threat of a protest for those that do, and it is not impossible that the FIA could take unilateral action itself if it feels that teams are pushing the limits too much.

Alpine is one of many outfits that will have to make modifications to its rear wing for the French Grand Prix, and it says the push by teams in this area was not simply about the wings flexing back to reduce drag on the straights.

“The deflections of wings are mostly linked to weight saving really,” he said. “I mean we are all fighting the weight limit and especially at the rear of the car.

“There is an incentive not only to have the car as light as possible and put as much ballast at the bottom as possible for centre of gravity, but also to run more ballast at the front of the car, and the front being in the front of the floor, for weight distribution purposes.

“The worst place on a car to have weight is in the rear wing because it’s high up and it’s at the back of the car. So it’s one of the areas we’re pushing the hardest for weight saving. And when you save weight you make a car that is a bit lighter and a bit less resistant to load.”

While Aston Martin suggested recently that flexi-wings could be worth as much as half a second per lap of performance, other teams are not so convinced.

Red Bull Racing RB16B rear wing detail

Red Bull Racing RB16B rear wing detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner reckons that the wings only deliver a gain of around one tenth of a second.

“It's marginal because you compromise other aspects,” he said. “I think in a simulated world, you're talking between half a tenth and three quarters of a tenth of a second here. So it's extremely marginal.

“I've heard numbers of half a second being quoted, but I think you can see here that our wings arguably are flexing less than a Mercedes rear wing. So it certainly wasn't half a second of lap time delta.

“I think it's all been a little bit overhyped in the media. Like all these things there is never a silver bullet. And I think that you need to have a car working well, you need everything: engine, chassis; vehicle dynamics, and aerodynamics all working in harmony. And it's never one single factor.”

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Budkowski concurred that the shift to stiffer wings for Paul Ricard would not serve to shake up the F1 order.

“We’ll adapt to it,” he said. “It will cost a bit of performance, it will cost us some weight for sure, and the centre of gravity, weight distribution. And potentially maybe a bit of aero performance if there was some drag-saving related to it. But that would be very small at the end of the day.”

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