Ferrari letter to FIA prompts scrutiny of FRIC, suspension tricks

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As teams feverishly prepare their 2017 cars for the new season, there seems to be a technical issue concerning the suspension design and the technical regulations. According to a piece at AUTOSPORT, Ferrari have queried the FIA over their planned suspension system that would replicate the FRIC (front and rear interconnected) system used by Mercedes in 2016 to much success.

Ferrari’s query has now shed new light or scrutiny on the types of suspension trickery deployed by Mercedes as well as Red Bull as they sought clarification for their own trick suspension. Ferrari’s Simone Resta said:

“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,” wrote Resta.

“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’.”

Whether Ferrari are working on the system or not isn’t the real meat of this inquiry as they themselves question the types of systems used in 2016 as well as their own desire for a new system saying displaying concern over two main areas:

“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.”

The FIA’s Charlie Whiting responded saying these scenarios would, in their opinion, contravene the regulations.

“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,”

The interesting part of this issue for me is the very late inquiry regarding the suspension when these components most likely would have been designed and baked in to the chassis concept many months ago. With just over two months to go to the new season, it is late in the day to change up an entire chassis design and perhaps—just perhaps—Ferrari know this and that’s why they’ve chosen to seek clarification while calling out their rivals trick suspension characteristics.

With the FIA on record over its view on suspension features and the regulations, it has prompted more discussion between the teams and the FIA as Mercedes or Red Bull would want to ensure they are compliant with their suspension design. Falling short of the regulations could place a serious performance deficit on either team should they be forced to re-design their chassis just a few weeks before the first winter test.

The 2017 season will bring a host of new chassis changes and it is intended to bring a balance back to Formula 1 between power and chassis reliance for good racing. A trick suspension would be very integral to the 2017 chassis design for any team but without it, it could mean a less competitive chassis in the realm of a new era of regulations and that’s very difficult to overcome.

Hat Tip: Autosport

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Paul KieferJrrambaldijakobusvdlPeter Riva Recent comment authors

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Like comedy, timing is everything and Ferrari timed this one just right. To raise this issue at this point in the off-season is almost perfect to disrupt competitors’ in-house chassis development. I don’t see them(Ferrari) asking for permission or clarification on the rules for themselves, but calling out others who may have used “illiegal” systems and saying if ours is “illegal”, so must be the others. Therefore, the FIA should ban it, as they are hoping. So Ferrari gets the FIA to investigate into all this and subsequently ban it without directly blowing the whistle on the other teams.

rambaldi
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rambaldi

I agree with your main thesis, although I would say something a little different when talking about Ferrari asking for permission. If you follow any of the interviews that have come out from Ross Brawn and changing regs he talks about getting in early with your requests for clarification. That way you can set the tone of the discussion and get started on your design early. It is well too late for that now, in this discussion, but in the future Ferrari should be doing it (in 2020 with the next big set of changes)

jakobusvdl
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jakobusvdl

Ferrari (and the other teams) have probably made other requests for clarification a while ago, to validate the directions they actually wanted to develop, but held this wee hand grenade back to throw when they thought it would do most harm to Mercedes and RBR.
Or maybe I’m crediting Ferrari with more guile than they actually have.

Peter Riva
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Peter Riva

“the very late inquiry regarding the suspension” is understatement! Holy cow, now they want a clarification? Seems then that their testing of their system is not working and they want Mercedes and Red Bull investigated?

jakobusvdl
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jakobusvdl

Mark Hughes at Motorsport also has an article on this issue. From reading NC’s and MH’s articles it looks like the Motorsports article title is ‘clickbait’ and Ferrari have used a bit of guile to pull the rug out from under Mercedes and Red Bull’s 2017 chassis design – forza Ferrari?
http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/opinion/f1/has-ferrari-just-handed-mercedes-2017-f1-title?utm_campaign=Has+Ferrari+just+handed+Mercedes+the+2017+F1+title%3F&utm_source=emailCampaign&utm_medium=email&utm_content=

Rapierman
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Rapierman

So, if what Ferrari suggested gets banned, what’s the alternative? Does this then become a de facto “spec” suspension system?

jakobusvdl
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jakobusvdl

I think that if the current trick of ‘moving the heave spring position’ is banned, Mercedes, Red Bull and any other teams using the system will have to rework their suspension systems to remove those components. Those teams lose a bit of performance relative to the rest, and the game moves on, to develop the next ‘trick system’. Do you remember in 2014 (?) when the FRIC systems were banned, after a ‘rule clarification’ because teams thought Mercedes and Lotus were getting too much of an advantage, and it turned out to be McLaren who took the biggest hit. But… Read more »

Peter Riva
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Peter Riva

I love this quote (found when trying to understand the issue here): “”Make the suspension adjustable and they will adjust it wrong …… look what they can do to a carburetor in just a few moments of stupidity with a screwdriver.” – Colin Chapman”
Credit: http://www.f1technical.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=9322&start=15

jakobusvdl
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jakobusvdl

Good stuff Peter, it set me off looking for Chapman quotes.
Here’s a great one, especially for Todd that shows where ABCC was on the engineering vs driver debate;
“Simply stated it must firstly be capable of lapping a racing circuit quicker than any other car, with the least possible skill from the driver, and doing it long enough to finish the race.”
I’m sure that Enzo Ferrari said something very similar (in Italian)

Source – http://jalopnik.com/5840611/colin-chapmans-simple-and-chilling-definition-of-a-formula-one-race-car