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Ferrari queries Mercedes suspension

NEWS STORY
03/01/2017

Before a single 2017 car has been unveiled a row is already brewing as Ferrari queries Mercedes suspension.

The Italian team has written to the FIA querying the hydraulic system being used by Mercedes aimed at improving its cars' stability under braking and in corners.

In 2014, the FIA banned FRIC (Front to Rear Interlinked Suspension) which was designed to transfer suspension load from front to rear as well as diagonally across the car in an attempt to control the car's pitch and roll. Pitch describes the rocking of a car from front to back as the suspension loads change, while roll relates to the twisting of the chassis which can result in a loss of tyre grip.

By reducing the pitch and roll the car has a more consistent aerodynamic platform, and therefore improved performance, but the FIA argued that the designs fell foul of the same regulations that saw the banning of active suspension in the early 1990s.

According to Article 3.15 the primary function of suspension designs must be to improve ride quality, with any aerodynamic benefit purely incidental. Charlie Whiting's clarification at the time effectively said it was the FIA's opinion that, while the systems did improve the ride quality, the primary purpose for interlinked suspension was to improve aerodynamics.

“Having now seen and studied nearly every current design of front-to-rear linked suspension system, as well as reviewing future developments some teams have shared with us, we are firmly of the view that the legality of all such systems could be called into question,” wrote Whiting at the time.

While conceding a ban within the (2014) season would have required unanimous agreement from the teams (unlikely given they are rarely able to agree on anything), Whiting said he would consider referring cars fitted with the system to the stewards.

A couple of years down the line and Mercedes has developed what it considers to be a fully legal system which involves a third suspension element front and rear, the benefits of which could be seen last season in terms of the German outfit's improved tyres performance.

Prompted by Mercedes success Red Bull made dramatic improvements also leading to other teams to follow suit.

However, as Ferrari works on its remedy to the issue, chief designer Simone Resta wrote to the FIA before Christmas asking for clarification of the legality of the system.

"We are considering a family of suspension devices that we believe could offer a performance improvement through a response that is a more complex function of the load at the wheels than would be obtained through a simple combination of springs, dampers and inerters," he wrote in the letter which was forwarded to all the teams.

"In all cases they would be installed between some combination of the sprung part of the car and the two suspension rockers on a single axle, and achieve an effect similar to that of a FRIC system without requiring any connection between the front and rear of the car.

"All suspension devices in question feature a moveable spring seat and they use energy recovered from wheel loads and displacements to alter the position of the heave spring.

"Their contribution to the primary purpose of the sprung suspension - the attachment of the wheels to the car in a manner which isolates the sprung part from road disturbances - is small, while their effect on ride height and hence aerodynamic performance is much larger, to the extent that we believe it could justify the additional weight and design complexity.

"We would therefore question the legality of these systems under Art. 3.15 and its interpretation in TD/002-11, discriminating between whether certain details are 'wholly incidental to the main purpose of the suspension system' or 'have been contrived to directly affect the aerodynamic performance of the car'."

Resta admitted that that the Maranello outfit's main concern was related to components that exhibited either:

1) Displacement in a direction opposed to the applied load over some or all of its travel, regardless of the source of the stored energy used to achieve this

or

2) A means by which some of the energy recovered from the forces and displacements at the wheel can be stored for release at a later time to extend a spring seat or other parts of the suspension assembly whose movement is not defined by the principally vertical suspension travel of the two wheels."

In response, Charlies Whiting told Resta, and thereby rival teams: "In our view any suspension system which was capable of altering the response of a cars' suspension system in the way you describe in paragraphs 1 and 2 would be likely to contravene article 3.15 of the F1 technical regulations."

With just under eight weeks before the opening test in Barcelona, those teams using or intending to use such a system, pending further clarification, will have to decide whether to go ahead and risk facing a possible ban or seek an alternative solution.

New Year... same old s***.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Usedtobe, 04/01/2017 22:46

"This is the paramount reason wy people say F1 is boring under someones dominance. That dominance is based on politics and thus it is possible gain an unfair advantage. If the system does not complies with the regulations because of it's aerodinamical influence is banned, plain and simple.



"

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2. Posted by Mugmug, 04/01/2017 13:11

"I would rather see innovation applied to suspensions (which could be applied to road cars) that don't cost an arm and a leg instead of spending countless millions on hybrid vacuum cleaner powerplants. Isn't innovation one of the reasons why people watch F1 in the first place? "

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3. Posted by GrahamG, 04/01/2017 9:57

"The usual F1 response - "original thinking and innovation, how dare they, lets get that banned immediately"

"

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4. Posted by Hobgoblin, 03/01/2017 15:58

"Here we go again!"

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5. Posted by edllorca, 03/01/2017 15:55

"Sounds like politics. Isn't it late for Ferrari to seek clarification now? Would suspension architecture be defined by now?"

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