McLaren to raise safety questions with FIA over Alpine’s “extreme” rear wing wobble

2023 Canadian Grand Prix

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McLaren will seek an explanation from the FIA why it did not take action over the “extreme” movement of Alpine’s rear wing during the Canadian Grand Prix.

Lando Norris raised concerns over the degree of movement in Esteban Ocon’s rear wing as he chased the Alpine driver during the final laps of the race.

“The rear wing is loose on the Alpine,” warned Norris on his radio. “It’s going to fall off at some point, that thing’s pretty dangerous. It’s very loose.”

“If this falls off it could hit someone,” he added. “It’s going to be extremely bad.”

The FIA race director has the power to summon cars into the pits for inspection, using the black-and-orange flag, if they appear to be in an unsafe condition. However the use of the flag became a point of controversy last year.

Haas were shown the black-and-orange flag on three separate occasions after sustaining damage to their front wing endplate, which they argued was too minor to require attention. However at the United States Grand Prix when Fernando Alonso spent several laps with a loose rear wing mirror on his Alpine, which did not attract the race director’s attention, prompting Haas to protest their rival.

Following the incidents teams are now required to demonstrate to race control that their car is in a safe condition if it appears to be damaged. However as McLaren team principal Andrea Stella pointed out, teams will always want to keep their car on-track, especially in the closing laps when they are in sight of the points, as was the case for Ocon.

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“The race direction now leaves the duty of care to the teams,” said Stella, “it’s the team’s call to say ‘we should retire the car’ or ‘we should leave the car out’. It’s a tricky one because teams, when they are in a competition, you have a conflict of interest in terms of safety of everyone involved and maximising your result.

Nyck de Vries, AlphaTauri, and Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Canadian Grand Prix in pictures
“I think this is a debate that will deserve more time and I’m sure that the next Sporting Advisory Committee it will be raised again. Because Lando said a couple of times that it is not nice when you follow a car with a wobbling rear wing and this may hit you, and kind of nothing happens.”

Alpine introduced a new rear wing design at the Canadian Grand Prix with smaller endplates and a larger central supporting pylon than the previous version. However Stella was sure the wing’s “extreme” movement at the end of the race will not have been by design.

He suspects the wobbling was impairing the car’s performance. “Certainly I’m surprised that the Alpine wasn’t in condition to pass Albon because their tyres were much newer,” he said. “So they must have lost some performance because of the tyre difference.

“I think if Lando was behind, we should have been able to pass Albon. So maybe that was a contribution to create this little train.”

Stella said McLaren were particularly worried as Ocon’s wing appeared to be wobbling more violently as the race went on. “When Lando was following Ocon he said that it got worse and worse,” said Stella. “This was the kind of concerning element.”

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He is convinced the wing was not behaving as normal, even for Alpine’s car. “Of course sometimes we saw already before that the Alpine real wing wobbles,” he said. “You might have noticed as well.

“But then when Lando reported it and it started to look like there’s something broken, it can’t wobble like that just out of its normal behaviour. It wouldn’t be accepted by the FIA, it wouldn’t be accepted by the team themselves. I’m sure the thing is not operating within design.”

Ocon’s car passed scrutineering after the race, which he finished in eighth place. Norris took ninth but was demoted to 13th by a post-race penalty. “We will certainly make a question as to what was their thinking in terms of how safe the situation was today,” said Stella.

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2023 Canadian Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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35 comments on “McLaren to raise safety questions with FIA over Alpine’s “extreme” rear wing wobble”

  1. Oh I can answer that one for Mclaren, because it wasn’t a safety issue but rather a blatant attempt by Norris and Mclaren to get Ocon out of the way and out of the points. I think the unsportsmanlike behaviour penalty for Norris was even more justified after this.

    1. Vlado Jakub
      19th June 2023, 12:22

      So it looked completely normal to you?

      Reply moderated
    2. Bojan Kaucic
      19th June 2023, 12:38

      you have no idea what you are talking about. Norris mentioned 3 times that the wing was loose, before he received the penalty. if the FIA ​​removed Ocon, Noris would have finished without points anyway. Norris said it was for security reasons. example-Baricello.

      Reply moderated
    3. From what I’ve heard this is a normally accepted part of the competition. Even if Lando was motivated by the possibility of gaining another place (and the points) in the race without having to overtake Esteban, the fact is Esteban’s car should comply with the rules.
      My understanding is movable aerodynamic features aren’t allowed on a car (apart from slight flexing under load).

  2. Surprised its not Steiner lobbying for this!

  3. yyyeeeaaahhh
    19th June 2023, 12:30

    Maybe Alpine is trying to replicate within F1 rules the Zenvo TSR-S active rear wing ?

    Reply moderated
  4. Ocon’s car passed scrutineering after the race

    That’s all that needs to be said.

    1. Okay, so Stewards have declared the wobbling wing isn’t a movable aerodynamic device, which is illegal. Now the question is how to make the wing wobble so you can gain an advantage. If it can legally wobble sideways then presumably it will also be legal if it moves backwards … sorry, I should have said “wobbles backwards” … under heavy loading as well, which could reduce drag at high speeds, which could be an advantage if you aren’t entitled to use DRS. Flexible rear wings are banned, but it now seems the Stewards have said this sort of flexing is legal.
      I guess the next question is can this wobbling wing apply to the front wing too, and if so maybe it can be made so the wobbling front wing steers into the corner, which would enable the car to go even faster around a corner.

  5. I can’t see that wing wobbling like that being intentional as it’s not likely to give any benefit.

    1. There would be a small aero benefit to the wing flopping out when cornering.
      With the wing flopping to the outside when cornering, the aero force of the wing (downwards) will have a small but effective component pushing the car laterally.
      Easiest way to protest this is a “moveable aerodynamic device”.
      Am surprised that it hasn’t been pitched that way.

      1. Easiest way to protest this is a “moveable aerodynamic device”.

        I would have thought lots of teams would have protested about this, especially those who could gain some points. I can only assume the lack of protests is because lots of teams can see more benefit for themselves in not protesting this.

  6. It did seem really extreme and I don’t blame Norris for raising the safety aspect. Would any of us want to drive into a huge assembly at 200mph. The halo might not really help depending what angle it would hit at and could do serious damage to a driver. And it really was wobbling a lot.

  7. I presume it only got through scrutineering because they demonstrated it was damaged during the race, but they need to get that failure mode out for subsequent races.

    For anyone thinking that wasn’t dangerous, would you want to follow a car with a wing like that on the limit every lap, knowing that if it came off either you could get hit by it or be involved in a huge accident with the car that lost it?

    1. Must be damage as in the early stages this had no extreme movement later when Lando commented on that it moved a lot more. As long if they keep a eye on the rear wing in futures races i have no problem with it.

  8. Probably it was not really intentional from Alpine because I would question if that wobbling gives any benefit to aero. I would assume not, as moving parts like that (even if it’s a super light structure) should make the car a bit less stable on the rear.

    Also, it might cause a brand image problem for Renault, as a car manufacturer, because that doesn’t project the greatest build quality with a flimsy wing like that.

  9. It’s my understanding that the reason no action was taken was that both Alpine and the FIA knew what had failed and knew that it wasn’t something that was unlikely to result in a total failure of the wing so they therefore didn’t see it as a safety issue.

    The failure point was something thats sole purpose is to limit the flexibility of the wing to meet the regulations on bodywork deflection. Alpine were able to show this failed as a result of damage rather than by design and it therefore also passed post race tech.

    A few teams have tried running without those supports and seen similar levels of deflection (Ferrari in testing or was it Friday practice in Bahrain is one for example).

    1. That might well be, but this is just another case of the FIA ignoring the rules and giving undue power to select individuals to make it up as they go along. It’s a shame Haas bungled their protest last year in Texas, because it’s beyond obvious that ‘some teams’ are allowed to get away with pretty much anything, while the stewards and race director suddenly take a keen interest in regulations when they can call one of the lesser participants in.

      Nowhere in the Technical Regulations does it say ‘except when a part is damaged’.

      1. Don’t really agree with you. I think in this case it is pretty clear that Ocon passed scrutineering and thus the choice was the right one. And the Regulations do not say ‘except when a part is damaged’, but if a driver crosses the line without a front wing they won’t disqualify him for being underweight or having front wing leftovers that do not meet the regulations.

        Reply moderated
  10. I’m asking why the McLaren can’t pass a car with a bad rear wing. I mean it is one of the most important parts of the aero isn’t it? The McLaren car is complete rubbish.

  11. I’m asking why the McLaren can’t pass a car with a bad rear wing.

    I think that almost anyone following the team/driver/commentary/tech experts discussions will have noted that even the RBR needs to get within a certain distance to get the basic pass done and the overspeed from the DRS finishes the job.

    Massa was further back when he got a face-full of spring, which really wasn’t good for his health, and you think Norris was in no danger from a complete rear wing? Hmmm.

    1. @jimfromus Even the RBR had problems to overtake as they swapt topspeed for more grip in corners.
      But to return to the topic that is the problem with a DRS train the Williams had enough to accelerate from the corner and slippery to keep them behind or atleast in a position where they couldn’t overtake.

    2. Massa was further back when he got a face-full of spring, which really wasn’t good for his health, and you think Norris was in no danger from a complete rear wing? Hmmm.

      Hmmm indeed – a spring is small enough to fit through the halo, and has a much higher density (mass/size).
      The wing would likely be severely weakened/broken simply by detaching from the car, and then further shatter into even smaller and lighter fragments that a racing helmet can easily deflect if any made it that far.

      But if you think they pose a comparable risk, good for you.

      Reply moderated
  12. I think Norris was quite right to raise the loose wing as a safety issue. If the rear wing detached at high speed, the driver would certainly lose control and hit the barriers. Given how quick they are to bring out the safety car for tiny bits of debris or a parked car at the side of the track, I was really surprised that they decided to let it run to the race end. I don’t know how the engineers could be so certain, without inspecting the car, that the wing was safe, but regardless of that, Norris was doing the right thing by bringing it to the attention of race control.

  13. I don’t get why they didn’t just black flag him. I’ve seen a lot less get black flagged. Were they sensitive to all the criticism about the penalty to Hulkenberg that everybody was whining about? Just call stuff consistently and don’t pay attention to complaints. Don’t explain to anyone except the parties involved. Fans don’t deserve explanations.

    1. I agree this should have been a black flag and there is no way the team knew if the wing was safe in that condition.

  14. I would solve the problem by getting rid of rear wings (and DRS!) They should be producing a decent amount of downforce from the floor by now.

    1. This would be great. They might actually pass once in awhile, but the ad space is the reason for the wings.

      1. That’s the ads for “Ferrari” and “Haas” and “Williams Racing,” that disappear when the flap’s open… (I realise there are other things written on the back)

        1. armchairengineer
          21st June 2023, 8:17

          you should apply for a job at fia

          Reply moderated
  15. Ted said it was wobbling in pre race practice starts. That’s how they built it. It’s not broken. I can’t imagine it passes a load test not directly over the mount.

    1. I can’t imagine it passes a load test not directly over the mount.

      It passes the designated tests – therefore it’s legal. That’s all that matters.
      Should the tests be different? Well, that’s a question that pops up every time tests are changed and teams have figured out how to pass them.

      Regardless – in this case the fact that the wing stayed attached to the car and functioned correctly and safely kinda proves that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with either the wing or the tests it had to pass.

      Reply moderated
  16. Interesting that they let the teams decide when the car is dangerous enough to have to pit, its like asking a alcoholic to decide when its time for the last drink.

  17. It’s safer than the way McLaren released their car in the pit lane!

  18. Ocon’s Car should have been Black Flagged.
    There are no other arguments that can be acceptable, if something is moving that much, it must not be working as it should, and therefore a “RISK” of injury to other ‘drivers’ or to the ‘spectators’ in the stands if it finally fails.
    A rear wing doing 200mph on it’s own and going wherever it wishes can do a hell of a lot of damage to human bodies whether they are wearing a skid lid or not.
    Front wing endplates or wing mirrors are bad enough when they shatter and create a storm of carbon fibre shrapnel, so imagine what a Rear Wing will become after being smashed to pieces – would YOU want to be in the firing line when it decides to give up the ghost ?

    Let’s forget the partisan attitudes because it really doesn’t matter which team or car/driver combination it is, It’s a Risk no Team or FIA should be willing to take – damn the money and prestige – it’s a death waiting to happen!

    1. Over-dramatised statement of the day goes to Stewart.

      I’d have no concern whatsoever being behind Ocon on this occasion – with the exception of the fact that I’m behind and not overtaking. If I were scared, the place for me to be is not in a racing car.
      When you know how these wings are constructed, you know the risk they pose.

      Reply moderated

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