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Merc wing: Bulls still pecking

2012-03-23 13:42

THAT WING... The Meccano-like assembly on the rear of Michael Schumacher's Mercedes might look like a braai drum - it's certainly drawing heat. Image: AFP

Author: CHRIS LINES

 
SEPANG, Malaysia - Red Bull won’t stop complaining about Mercedes' 2012 wing design despite it being deemed legal by Formula 1 officials – and that’s just the tip of a whinging iceberg.

The dispute between Red Bull and Mercedes was rumbling on behind the scenes here in Sepang ahead of the 2012 Malaysian GP with Mercedes sniping back by questioning whether Red Bull's engine mapping was outside the rules.

Red Bull and Lotus queried the Mercedes wing design in Australia at the first GP of the 2012 season but FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting deemed it legal.

'CLARITY WOULD BE NICE'


Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said on Friday: "The car has passed scrutineering so you have to assume the FIA is happy with the Mercedes car’s configuration.”

Asked would he now drop the issue, Horner replied "probably not"; he believed it was important for rival teams to be told quickly whether they should seek to replicate the Mercedes design or whether it would be outlawed during, or at the end of, the season.

"It would be nice to come out of this weekend with that clarity," Horner said.

The Mercedes rear wing has ducts that become exposed when the rear wing flaps are open, channelling air back toward the front wing, reducing drag and thereby allowing greater straight-line speed.

Mercedes responded by raising questions of its own about Red Bull, submitting audio recordings of the Red Bull engine which seemed to indicate there were points during laps in which it was firing on less than four cylinders - illegal under F1 regulations.

However, the FIA's data analysis of the injection and firing of the cylinders in the Red Bull, and the degree of throttle opening, did not support that contention.

'NOT A THREAT'

Mercedes motorsport chief Norbert Haug told Autosport: “We are not threatening to protest, we just want to understand what is going on.

"If you are not requesting that clarification then you are not doing your job. This is not a threat of being illegal, it is just clarification. I am very open and straight on that."

Red Bull was playing a central role in several F1 off-track controversies. Aside from the spat with Mercedes, it and its sister team Toro Rosso stood aside from other teams and refused to sign a letter to the FIA requesting that cost control be written into F1's sporting regulations.

Red Bull and Ferrari had also reportedly been offered special deals to take equity stakes in the F1 commercial entity as part of a restructuring that involved minority stakes being floated on a yet-to-be-determined choice of stock exchange.

Horner replied to those reports on Friday by saying "we don't see the necessity or requirement to have shareholding”.

On cost-cutting, Horner agreed reductions were needed to improve the viability of the series' smaller teams but questioned whether the teams' Resource Restriction Agreement (or having such restrictions enshrined in the series' regulations) would be the best way.

He argued that it would unevenly affect teams depending on their corporate structure. A standalone race team such as Red Bull accounted for its costs more directly than Ferrari, for instance, which is also a road-car manufacturer and, further, just one entity within the broader Fiat business.

"Red Bull is absolutely fully behind cost control in F1," Horner said. "The question is whether the RRA is the right way to achieve that."

'PUT ASIDE SELF-INTEREST'

McLaren principal Martin Whitmarsh said he understood Red Bull's position but “the fact that there are F1 teams struggling to survive tells us we are not doing enough" to cut costs.

Ferrari principal Stefano Domenicali said his team was doing well financially as a company but recognised that a strong and competitive F1 was important to its commercial success, and added: “We need to put aside self-interest."

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