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Formula 1

Aston Martin says F1 rule change row has been ‘put to bed’

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Aston Martin’s issue with Formula 1’s floor rule changes for 2021 has been “put to bed” and no further action will be taken, says team principal Otmar Szafnauer.

The introduction of four small changes to the rear of the cars this season had created a significant combined effect on aerodynamic performance, which seems to have hurt the lower-rake Mercedes and Aston Martin cars the most.

That prompted Aston Martin, which has slumped from being a race winner last year as Racing Point to struggling to score points this season, to question the process that led to those rule changes – which were introduced to reduce the load put on tyres that were set to be carried over from 2020 to 2021 and could be vulnerable to failures.

Aston Martin wanted to establish why F1 and the FIA combined to push through a second batch of aero changes on what were billed as safety grounds when teams had already agreed on tweaks that would have reduced aero performance anyway and tyre supplier Pirelli was ultimately able to develop a slightly more robust tyre for 2021.

The implication was that the extra changes were not actually for the reasons outlined and instead were designed to peg back the world champion Mercedes team, with Aston Martin collateral damage within that.

Aston Martin chiefs had discussions with the FIA over the matter, with the stated hope that some action would be taken in-season to rectify the impact of the rule changes – and a suggestion, which was not ruled out by the team, that legal action could follow if that didn’t happen.

But Szafnauer revealed on Friday at the Monaco Grand Prix that the matter is no longer being pursued.

“No, I think that’s been put to bed,” he said.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Monaco Grand Prix Thursday Monte Carlo, Monaco

“We’ve had good conversation and discussion and tried to understand the process and how it transpired.

“There won’t be anything going forward.”

Another off-track technical controversy has engulfed F1 since the previous race in Spain, with much of the Monaco week dominated by discussion over flexi-wings.

Mercedes and McLaren have been outspoken amid concerns rivals have circumvented rules by finding a way to make their rear wings pass the existing tests in place then deform under greater loads on-track.

Red Bull is the expected target of that criticism given video footage from the Spanish Grand Prix that showed the rear wing of the RB16B flexing considerably on the straights, with Alfa Romeo, Alpine and Ferrari also among the teams known to have prioritised such a solution.

Tougher load and pullback tests will be implemented from mid-June as the FIA increases its vigilance of anomalous rear wing behaviour.

Szafnauer said he is “happy” the FIA is doing something about the issue but sided with engine supplier Mercedes and fellow customer McLaren that waiting weeks to enforce new tests is wrong.

“To design something that flexes just the right amount and pass the test but still flex takes a big effort,” said Szafnauer.

“But to design something that is stiff doesn’t take effort at all, and it can be done very, very quickly.”

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Szafnauer also claimed Aston Martin will not have to change anything on the AMR21 to comply with the new tests.

“Everything bends, but our pillars and rear wing don’t bend nearly as much as the others,” he said.

“And the rule is not that if you pass the test you’re legal, that’s not what the rule is.

“We’re on the right side of the legality, we easily passed the test.

“Yes, we flex a bit because everything flexes, but our rear pillars and our rear wings are super stiff.”

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