The F1 Strategy Group has voted to close a loophole in the sport’s technical regulations to outlaw ‘shark fins’ and ‘T-wings’ from 2018 onwards.
A loophole in the 2017 regulations – written to drive a complete redesign for wider-profile, more aggressive and quicker cars – allowed designed to exploit the area behind the engine cover. This led to the majority of teams extending the engine cover into a ‘shark fin’ profile, while also bolting on a number of different interpretations to the ‘T-wing’ concept to drive extra downforce at the rear of the car.
The ‘T-wings’ have proved to be particularly problematic, with a number of failures having already occurred during the first three Grands Prix in Australia, China and Bahrain.
In Australia, the Haas F1 Team was forced to suspend the use of its ‘T-wings’ until it could demonstrate they had been restrengthened after the VF17 cars’ designs were seen to be shaking violently.
In China and Bahrain, Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas had his ‘T-wing’ part company with his car. The FIA demanded that Mercedes reinforce its ‘T-wing’ mounting ahead of qualifying at the latter event after Max Verstappen ran over the debris from Bottas’ car and caused an apparent £50,000 damage to the underbody of his Red Bull Racing RB13.
In a meeting of the F1 Strategy Group – a committee of the grid’s leading six teams that helps form and design elements of the sport’s rules – the group voted to tighten up the regulations for 2018.
“Changes in the regulation boxes around the engine cover have been made so that designs incorporating the ‘T-wing’ and ‘shark fin’ will be strictly limited,” a statement reads.
The move to alter the regulations will still need to be rubber-stamped by the F1 Commission – a larger body with comprises all the teams, engine suppliers and Pirelli, as well as a selection of major sponsors and race promoters – before being signed off by the FIA World Motor Sport Council.
The Strategy Group also voted to ditch the unsightly halo head protection system and concentrate on development of the new ‘shield’ design. The FIA has confirmed it will conduct tests of the design with a view to implementing it in time for the 2018 season.
Among other decisions, the Group also added a clause in the rules banning the use of oil as fuel, as well as stipulating that only one specification of oil can be used for an given power unit during an event.
The Group also voted to dictate that races which are suspended for a red flag will be restarted with a standing start.
In addition, the Group also agreed to an edict that will ensure spectators can see the drivers’ names and car numbers. This will come into effect at the Spanish Grand Prix.
What was rather unique in this meeting of the Strategy Group was that non-member teams – specifically Toro Rosso, Haas, Renault and Sauber – were invited as observers.
These four teams do not have any input or voting rights under the current structure of the F1 Strategy Group, but the move has ostensibly come at the behest of the sport’s new commercial rights owners to improve transparency in the sport.
Sauber and Strategy Group member Force India have both previously lodged complaints to the European Commission about the legality of the Strategy Group.
The broader argument the sport will have to look at, when the current Concorde Agreement ends in 2020, is whether the Strategy Group is an appropriate body to drive the future regulatory direction of the sport.
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