F1 teams clash over 'surprising' Lewis Hamilton comment

·Sports Reporter
·5-min read
Lewis Hamilton may have inadvertently triggered an F1 crackdown on rear wing flexibility after an innocuous sledge at key rivals Red Bull last weekend. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton may have inadvertently triggered an F1 crackdown on rear wing flexibility after an innocuous sledge at key rivals Red Bull last weekend. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

An unexpected barb from reigning F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has triggered a rules crackdown from the sport's governing body and potentially escalated the fierce rivalry between Mercedes and Red Bull.

The FIA has announced new checks on rear wings to be introduced for next month's French Grand Prix, amid concern some teams were gaining an advantage by using wings that technically complied with F1 regulations but which gave drivers an unintended advantage on the track.

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F1 has strict rules about the flexibility of rear wings, which mean teams must not fit aerodynamic components which flex too much under heavy loads.

A more flexible rear wing means cars lose drag on long straights, while maintaining the high amount of downforce required to keep the car planted at lower speeds.

A report from Motorsport.com stated the FIA had issued a statement to all 10 teams over the matter, suggesting that while each car was compliant with the rules at the time the tests were carried out, they 'nonetheless exhibit excessive deflections while the cars are in motion'.

The rules crackdown comes after comments Mercedes champion Hamilton made about the rival Red Bull outfit prior to his comeback victory in Spain last weekend.

"The Red Bulls are really fast on the straights," Hamilton had told Sky Sports.

"They have this bendy wing on the back of their car which they put on today and they gained at least three tenths from this wing.

"So they will be quicker down the straights than us."

However Red Bull team boss Christian Horner wasn't buying it.

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No stranger to stirring the pot himself, Horner was quick to suggest the words about the Red Bull's rear wing might have been put in Hamilton's mouth by Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff - himself no stranger to F1's gamesmanship.

"I saw the comments," Horner said.

"Of course the cars are scrutineered thoroughly and there's pull back tests, and there's all kinds of different tests it has to pass. 

"The FIA are completely happy with the car, that it has passed all of those tests that are pretty stringent.

"So I was surprised to see his comments on that. But it's something that Toto has mentioned to me previously. 

"I doubt it was Lewis' opinion, so (it) probably came from elsewhere."

Mercedes boss casts doubt over Red Bull's F1 rear wing

As if almost to affirm the inter-team shenanigans surrounding the rear wing flexing issue, when asked about the controversy Wolff gave a cryptic answer.

"Yeah, it's good fun," he said.

"Yeah, we discussed it. But, everybody's, no, let me not comment. Sorry."

The conversations erupted following Hamilton's impressive come-from-behind victory at the Spanish GP, in which he usurped race leader Verstappen with just six laps remaining for the victory.

The Briton's 98th victory, coming the day after he'd earned his landmark 100th pole position, was his third in four races as he and his Mercedes team delivered a strategic masterclass after Red Bull's Verstappen seized the lead at the first corner.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates victory in the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix. (Photo by Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton celebrates victory in the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix. (Photo by Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

The breakthrough came when Hamilton made a second pitstop with 23 laps to go, returning on fresh tyres but some 22 seconds behind his Dutch rival.

Hamilton rapidly closed the gap, defying computer predictions that he would take until the last lap, to sweep past his helpless rival with six to spare in a re-run of his epic chase of Verstappen at the 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix.

"Such a close start... and then after that just hunting," said Hamilton, the first to succeed from pole this season and now a six-times winner at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.

"It was a long way to come back from 20-odd seconds back but it was a good gamble, a really great strategy by the team."

Verstappen, who pitted for fresh tyres after he had lost the lead to secure a bonus point for fastest lap, said he could see it coming.

"Bit of a sitting duck... we were just clearly lacking pace. I tried everything I could."

Hamilton's Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas finished third in a repeat of the podium from last weekend's Portuguese Grand Prix.

With AAP

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