The removal of the FRIC systems was a move to try to stop the Mercedes dominance but needless to say, it didn't work.
2014 was heralded as the year where the ‘intelligent drivers’ in F1 would rise to the top of the crème de la crème of F1. La raison? The new regulations championed by the governing body, the FIA, introduced new V6 engines (or more appropriately named; power V6 power units) to replace the older, albeit louder V8 engines that had been the mainstay in F1 for more than thirty years.
The removal of the blown diffuser as well as the need for more cooling around the rear of the cars and the less use of space-age aerodynamics to improve ultimate lap times that gave Sebastian Vettel and Redbull Infinity Racing’s their dominance between 2009 and 2013 was about to come to an end. In with re-introduction of driving techniques such as ‘lift-and-coast’- to help drivers save fuel and manage tyre performance while maintaining the required lap times was a challenge that the more cerebral drivers were expected to utilise.
What was the point of FRIC?
However, like a flexible yet impregnable piece of wood that holds a pendulum together or in this case like a brilliant invention of engineering erudition, the most important engineering development in the new 2014 F1 year from a drivers point of view, was the understanding, use and feel of the suspension. Enter then, the Front-and Rear-Interconnection suspension (FRIC) which basically tries to connect the pitch (the front end of the car) with the rear of the car with minimum turbulence, a device that was designed to help drivers manage the sudden release of power through the throttle that they were unaccustomed to. Of the eleven teams currently in F1, Mercedes AMG Petronas is believed to have developed the most sophisticated FRIC system to support their widely believed superior power units.
Considering that F1 is never far from a controversy or two since its inception in 1950, it is believed that sending directives that would tantamount a ban on FRIC by Charlie Whiting, the chief race director just before the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim (18th-20th July) was an attempt to curtail the dominance of the Mercedes team (considering that they had won eight of the nine races up until the race in Germany, naysayers had more meat for their stubbles that F1 was at its political gerrymandering again.
So banned it was. Well, actually not exactly. The team, fearing that they would be penalised by a removal of their points win if they ran their cars with the FRIC systems, voluntarily removed it from their cars - all eleven teams (that’s 22 cars) unanimously, unprecedentedly did.
What did the ban change? Nothing!
Did this change the prevailing order and hitherto dominance of the Mercedes F1 team in the subsequent races? You bet it didn’t! The team continued their dominance in the German Grand Prix with Nico Rosberg winning from pole position and Lewis Hamilton’s indefatigable drive from twenty-second to third after a systematic collapse of a front brake during qualifying.
So the jury is out but the verdict isn’t in as to how the removal of ban will merit. For my money, I will back the brawlers to come out on top, given of course that they don’t have any FRIC-ing strings attached to their waists if a fight broke out between the nerds and the brawlers if the brawlers are told they’re told they’re not intelligent enough to drive the headmaster out of town!