The 2017 Formula One season has not even started yet and already it looks like top team Mercedes has found a loophole in the new regulations for the year.
The best tech commentator in F1, Craig Scarborough, pointed out this odd little whale tail wing thing on the back of the new Mercedes W0NumberWhatever.
As you can see, it sits ahead of the car’s main rear wing and back at the base of the engine cover. Other teams have a tailfin that occupies this space. Mercedes built a single tall strut with a wing on it. The whole thing looks like the car sprouted a new vestigial limb.
Scarbs’ description of the wing thing in Racecar Engineering hedges a bit, but does explain how this could be a totally-not-cheating loophole getting exploited:
The Mercedes ran at Silverstone with a very strange looking component on the engine cover, initially it was thought to be some kind of sensor mount – but it appears that it may in fact be an aerodynamic component. The dimensions of it seem to be the width and height of the old 2016 spec rear wing, perhaps exploiting a leftover from the old technical regulations carried over into the ’17 rule book.
I find this all extremely amusing as the regulations defining these new 2017 cars are supposed to legally allow much more aero than in years past. What F1's organizers have openly allowed in their regulations already offers a vast gain in downforce. What’s normal should be enough! But there’s no such thing as enough in F1, so it would not surprise me if Mercedes went even harder and found room for unexpected winglets and scooplings and such.
Also remember that this Mercedes was only shown to the press this morning, and has only been on track for what must be a few hours now. That the team might have already found a way to game F1's notoriously finicky rulebook is outstanding. F1 is so cutthroat I cannot get over it.