The race stewards at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have opted to disqualify both Red Bull drivers after it was found that the team had designed its front wings to flex under aerodynamic load.
A representative for the team was requested to come to the stewards at 20:00 local time after a FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer reported (in document 28) that cars 1 and 3 are not in compliance with Article 3.15 of the FIA Formula One Technical Regulations.
It emerged later from the paddock that the issue revolves around an illegal front flap adjuster. Journalist Adam Cooper was told the FIA discovered a leaf spring arrangement inside a rubber shroud.
After some team members, including Adrian Newey visited the stewards, it was decided to disqualify both Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel. They were set to start from the third row on the grid, but following their disqualification will have to start from the back of the grid or the pitlane.
Whether they will be able to is unclear at this time, as the team will obviously have to change wings to be legal in the race. If the team's legal front wings are considered to be of a different spec, then it's a breach of parc fermé rules, requiring a pitlane start.
Red Bull subsequently released the following statement.
"Following the decision of the Stewards regarding the front wings on both our cars (Car 1 and Car 3), we are disappointed that we have been singled out for a front wing deflection test when it is clear that other teams are interpreting the rules in a similar fashion.
The team accepts the decision of the Stewards and will start the race from the back of the grid."
Flexible wings are nothing new in F1, but so far the teams designed the carbon fibre to be as stiff as needed. If Red Bull really incorporated a hidden spring somewhere in its wing arrangement, that is obviously another step of "interpreting the regulations".
Wing flexibility is a feature chased by teams for a long time, in particular because there's no trade-off at all. It allows for high downforce at lower speeds while the flexibility will make sure that part of the extra drag that comes with high downforce wings is negated by the wing's bending at higher speeds.