FIA ruling on F1 suspension row expected before first test

A ruling from the FIA on the legality of trick suspension systems in Formula 1 is now expected before the first pre-season test, following the latest discussion between teams.

FIA ruling on F1 suspension row expected before first test

Debate about the concept of pre-loaded suspension systems has been ongoing, in the wake of a clarification request by Ferrari over the winter about the devices helping aerodynamic performance.

In the letter, sent to F1 race director Charlie Whiting from Ferrari chief designer Simone Resta, an idea of a system that could replicate the banned FRIC (Front and Rear InterConnected) system pioneered by Mercedes without there actually being a physical link between the front and rear of the car was put forward.

It was proposed that the concept would go beyond simple handling and could help improve performance through better ride-height and aerodynamics.

"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," said Resta.

"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".

Whiting's response at the time was clear in that he felt any suspension system that acted in such a way would be in breach of the rules.

He said: "In our view any suspension system which was capable of altering the response of a car's 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."

It is believed that Ferrari's request for clarification was aimed not at giving the green light to a system it wanted to develop, but to seek guidance on whether concepts used by rival teams were legal.

In particular, it has been suggested that Mercedes and Red Bull have been at the forefront of pushing suspension complexity to the limits, even though neither outfit felt that the ruling had any impact on devices they were running.

Despite Whiting's initial response, the matter has continued to be debated among teams ahead of the 2017 season.

It is understood further discussions took place in a meeting of technical directors with the FIA last week, but there was no consensus between the competitors about what should and should not be allowed.

Various ideas were proposed – including a return to conventional suspension, a switch to active suspension or no restriction on the current hydraulic concepts – but teams' opinions were split.

In light of the situation, and the fact that the suspension technology can be key to car performance, it is understood that a fresh Technical Directive from Whiting giving his opinion on the situation is expected in the next fortnight.

It is unclear, however, whether this will impose restrictions on devices that have been developed by teams – forcing a major reworking ahead of the 2017 campaign – or will state that complex systems are within the regulations.

However, it is hoped that the ruling will deliver clear guidelines on what is and is not allowed, and doing it before testing begins will at least give teams time to adjust before the season opener in Australia next month.

Should there be ongoing disagreements about the situation, however, it is possible that the matter could result in a showdown at the Australian Grand Prix.

For teams understand that opinions from Whiting are only advisory in nature, and binding interpretations of the regulations can only be laid down by race stewards at events or ultimately the FIA International Court of Appeal.

It means that if a team is unhappy with what a rival is doing, then it can challenge it with an official protest at a grand prix.

F1's first pre-season test is scheduled to begin at Barcelona on February 27.

shares
comments
Lauda expects F1 teams to show true pace before Melbourne
Previous article

Lauda expects F1 teams to show true pace before Melbourne

Next article

F1 income equality plans promise "exciting future" for Williams

F1 income equality plans promise "exciting future" for Williams
Load comments
Unpacking the technical changes behind F1 2022's rules shake-up Prime

Unpacking the technical changes behind F1 2022's rules shake-up

Formula 1 cars will look very different this year as the long-awaited fresh rules finally arrive with the stated aim of improving its quality of racing. We break down what the return of 'ground effect' aerodynamics - and a flurry of other changes besides - means for the teams, and what fans can expect

Why F1's new era is still dogged by its old world problems Prime

Why F1's new era is still dogged by its old world problems

OPINION: The 2022 Formula 1 season is just weeks away from getting underway, but instead of focusing on what is to come, the attention still remains on what has been – not least the Abu Dhabi title decider controversy. That, plus other key talking points, must be resolved to allow the series to warmly welcome in its new era

Formula 1
Jan 20, 2022
The Schumacher trait that will give Haas hope in F1 2022 Prime

The Schumacher trait that will give Haas hope in F1 2022

Mick Schumacher’s knack of improving during his second season in a championship was a trademark of his junior formula career, so his progress during his rookie Formula 1 campaign with Haas was encouraging. His target now will be to turn that improvement into results as the team hopes to reap the rewards of sacrificing development in 2021

Formula 1
Jan 19, 2022
The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push Prime

The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push

As the driver of Formula 1’s medical car, Alan van der Merwe’s job is to wait – and hope his skills aren’t needed. James Newbold hears from F1’s lesser-known stalwart.

Formula 1
Jan 15, 2022
When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push Prime

When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push

There was an ace up the sleeve during the 1983 F1 title-winning season of Nelson Piquet and Brabham. It made a frontrunning car invincible for the last three races to see off Renault's Alain Prost and secure the combination's second world title in three years

Formula 1
Jan 13, 2022
How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner Prime

How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner

Brabham’s first world championship race-winning car was held back by unreliable Climax engines – or so its creators believed, as STUART CODLING explains

Formula 1
Jan 10, 2022
The steps Norris took to reach a new level in the 2021 F1 season Prime

The steps Norris took to reach a new level in the 2021 F1 season

Lando Norris came of age as a grand prix driver in 2021. McLaren’s young ace is no longer an apprentice or a quietly capable number two – he’s proved himself a potential winner in the top flight and, as Stuart Codling finds out, he’s ready to stake his claim to greatness…

Formula 1
Jan 9, 2022
How Fangio set the bar for Schumacher and Hamilton in F1 Prime

How Fangio set the bar for Schumacher and Hamilton in F1

Juan Manuel Fangio, peerless on track and charming off it, established the gold standard of grand prix greatness. Nigel Roebuck recalls a remarkable champion.

Formula 1
Jan 8, 2022