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F1 teams set to discuss rule tweaks to avert “mirror war”

As part of the upgrades that Mercedes brought to its W13 for last week’s Bahrain test, it included an innovative mirror stay concept on its side impact structure fins – which included a range of vanes.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto suggested that, while the design complied with the regulations now, there was a risk that teams could go aggressive and push the boundaries even more in creating some ‘spaceship’ designs in the future.

But, ahead of a meeting of Formula 1’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) on Tuesday, there is a belief that the issue will get addressed.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said: “You certainly don’t want to get in to a mirror war.

“So much time in these technical meetings over the last 10 years or so has been talking about the function of the mirrors and whether they become wings or not, and it is probably not the intention.

“I’m sure in the right forum, in the TAC meeting they have, that will probably be addressed and discussed there.”

The FIA’s head of single-seater matters Nikolas Tombazis suggested that the issue right now was that the wording of the current regulations has left some ambiguity about whether or not certain bodywork is or is not part of the mirror design.

In theory, the mirrors are not classified as bodywork, so according to article 3.2.2. of F1’s technical regulations their aerodynamic influence: ” must be incidental to its main function. Any design which aims to maximise such an aerodynamic influence is prohibited.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

However, the rules also do allow teams to declare some bodywork as ‘mirror stay’ – so they get viewed in a different way.

Tombazis said: “The regulations state that bodywork declared as mirrors stay, and there’s two types of stay, must fulfil certain conditions. It must lie in this box, it must lie in whatever, not have sections or whatever. The way that is phrased, it assigns the name mirror stay to that bodywork that is declared as such.

“The regulation could have said the bodywork declared as ABC must lie in that, and it doesn’t, There’s no direct association between the name and the function.

“In other areas of the car, in other areas of the regulations, we have a statement like: ‘for the sole purpose of something, you must do XYZ.’ And then we take a different view there, because it says there the regulations state specifically an objective or a reason for the existence of a certain component.

“If we see a team obviously doing something different and using that function as an excuse, we tend to not allow it. On the other hand, for the mirror stays, that wording isn’t there, and therefore, at least at the moment, we’ve formed that opinion.”

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While it is unlikely that TAC will push for the Mercedes mirror design to be outlawed, what could happen is that the rules are reworded for 2023 to ensure that designs do not become even more extreme.

Tombazis added: “We always assess rules for following years, and we assess whether things are clear, whether the new rules sometimes contain things that may not have been phrased as well as intended and so on.

“I think by and large, the level of discrepancy is quite low from what is intended, but there are a few little areas, and we discussed that with the teams. We’ll have another TAC meeting on Tuesday I believe to discuss these matters.”

 

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