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Patents in F1 explained

We've had a big response to the story earlier this week about the new ride height control system on the Lotus Renault using tiny cylinders on the e...

Patents in F1 explained

We've had a big response to the story earlier this week about the new ride height control system on the Lotus Renault using tiny cylinders on the end of the pushrods.

There were many questions from readers about whether Lotus could patent the idea.

A senior F1 engineer has kindly stepped in to clear up the question of patenting F1 technical ideas for readers.

His explanation is below:

"The lack of patents in F1 is quite simple. It’s because if a team takes out a patent on a design, that then locks in an advantage the other teams cannot access. Therefore the other teams will simply vote it out through the FIA Technical Working Group process by the end of the season in question.

"By keeping a new design in the game, a team can gamble that they can do a better job on a design than another team. Examples like seamless shift gearbox & inertia dampers are good ones. If these were patented by F1 teams, then they would have been wiped out."

Meanwhile it appears that not only does the FIA consider the Lotus idea legal, but other teams including Ferrari are already working on their own version. It will be one of the must have gizmos at the start of the 2012 season.

Lotus has applied for some patents on ideas like using mercury inside dampers, but this could be in order to sell the technology to a wider market rather than grab an initiative in F1.

* An update on the Lotus ride height system: Giorgio Piola, who broke the story earlier this week has written that Mercedes are also working on a version of it. Bob Bell moved from Renault to Mercedes in the last 12 months and has hired one of the engineers behind the system.

Mercedes have announced that they will be late releasing the new car, missing the first test and the speculation is that the delay is due partly to this system but also partly to a delay in the complicated F Duct front wing, which they tried out in practice in Japan.

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