Lewis Hamilton opens up on difficult season for Mercedes
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Mercedes’ unique front wing concept introduced to help Lewis Hamilton has been banned by the FIA for next season. The Silver Arrows had introduced slot gap separators into a new front wing design at the United States Grand Prix.
However, rivals quickly attacked the design for being outside of the regulations in a major blow. Mercedes didn’t use the concept in Austin but had looked at fitting it for the Mexican Grand Prix a week later.
Many suggested that the slots had an aerodynamic advantage instead of a purely structural update. The FIA took a tough stance in Mexico City as they claimed the extra fins would provide an advantage if used.
In a bid to avoid any penalties, the German manufacturer removed the pieces from the wing before running their new design.
The FIA has now taken this one step further by tweaking the 2023 rules to outlaw the concept. The new regulations state that the slot gap operator must provide a structural connection.
Mercedes argued the 2022 rules only claimed separators had to be “primarily” mechanical meaning they could get away with any performance advantages. However, this sentence has now been removed for next season to avoid the FIA being seen to allow ambiguous loopholes.
Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott explained the FIA had their doubts when they initially saw the concept. He also admitted the team dropped their plans to run the design purely to avoid a heated debate over the car’s legality.
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He commented: “We go through a CAD [computed aided design] review process with the FIA before we come to the circuit, that happens all the time. So it was something that was seen there and then they came back and said, ‘we’re not so sure about this.
“That process works OK. I think if you look at the regulations, there’s about 40 odd incidences in the regulations of ‘sole purpose’, in this case it doesn’t say ‘sole purpose’, it says ‘primary purpose’. I think there’s an argument to be had, whether we want to have it is another question.
“It’s probably not worthwhile… The gain for those bits is so small, is it worth the risk of falling foul of the stewards?” The new front wing was one of several new parts fitted by Mercedes for the final few races.
The Silver Arrows looked more competitive after the changes with Hamilton fighting for wins in the USA and Mexico. George Russell then secured the team’s first and only win of the season at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
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