Cries of foul and flexing wings were resounding around the pitlane and press room over the opening two Grands Prix of the season. Some television from Malaysia footage showed a highly visible example of flex in Ferrari's front wing, and issues surrounding the team's rear wing in Bahrain the week before further fuelled this controversy.
But flexi-wings are not a new phenomenon. Arguments over moving bodywork hark back to the first days when wings were tried in F1 and have reappeared regularly ever since. In the nineties, improved knowledge of aerodynamics and carbon fibre conspired to create new semi-rigid and hence flexible wings available to the teams.
Ever since then, the abiding rules - which demand all bodywork parts (and hence wings) are rigid - have been probed and tested by the teams. Therein lies the perennial problem of what is said by the rules and what is implied by the rules. A Standard FIA approach to rules is to have blanket definition (the spirit of the rule) and back it up with clarifications (the letter of the rules). As soon as one interpretation is felt to be outside the spirit, then a clarification is issued and the teams have to head off to find other areas to gain competitive advantage.
In understanding bodywork and rules demanding it be rigid, we have to consider what is possible in the real world. Of course any structure cannot be 100% rigid, especially when it has to be fitted to a light racing car, passing through the air at 200mph.