Podcast #513

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Join Grace and me as we discuss active suspensions, Toto and Niki, data sharing, reserve drivers, and Mercedes’s new employee. 

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From memory, traction control and active suspension were banned because they were driver aids, not because of the cost of the systems. In that respect they fall into the same category as the driver data that Hamilton doesn’t want to share. Perhaps the recording of this data should also be banned as it masks the difference between the good and the great drivers? The teams discussing allowing active suspension in 2018 strike me as typical of the short term reactive thinking that has been prevalent in F1. Ross Brawn has certainly discussed the need for a longer term plan to… Read more »

Salvu Borg

Active suspension is being blabbed about to divert attention from the present suspension legality problem.

Negative Camber

Well, it was certainly one of the three solutions they discussed and to be fair to them, leaving things as they are with FRIC was one of the options. They’re engineers, of course, so they would like the new tech of active suspension. :)

Salvu Borg

yes, agree that they have discussed other systems, any of which if agreed is only possible next year (rules change). as regards to leaving things as they are, first FRIC is not being used, secondly as long as the present rules are not changed, and that doesn’t depend on them wanting or not to leaving things as they are, but solely on what is legal or not as per present rules.

Clayton Brown

But it’s pretty old tech – right? Senna’s era.

peter riva

The FIA won’t say anything? You have it a tad wrong… they have nothing to say. Nada, zilch, empty cranium, dopes.


BRING ON ACTIVE CONTROLS: Not all “tech” is electronic. There is chemical tech, pneumatic and hydraulic tech, spring tech, and aero tech, among others. Focusing on the costs of active controls technology without consideration of the other costs does a dis-service to the art. The fact that we don’t call aerodynamics “aero tech” doesn’t mean that it isn’t a money pit for the lesser teams, and it doesn’t make Adrian Newey’s paycheck any smaller either. Given the performance curve in manufacturing, I suspect the curve in F1 would be the same: active controls give you so much performance for so… Read more »

Negative Camber

Good points and I like it too but you feel it would not simply add millions of dollars to a budget? I just worry about mid-field teams already bemoaning costs of F1 and this can’t help.


While I’m not in the automotive industry, I am in the process field and controls engineering is in my wheelhouse. I don’t think that many people have an accurate idea of how cheap and effective current controls systems and schema are today. As a minor example: Everyone has heard of a feedback loop, but 20 years ago, effective feed forward systems were an expensive dream and a rich company’s playtoy. Today, my relatively small plant has one major and two minor error correcting feed forward systems. And they were cheap. It’s not just processing power, though of course that’s… Read more »

Negative Camber

Great point and you’re correct, I have no idea what scale and disruption as well as time have done to the cost of these systems because I’m not in the industry. If they could develop active suspension and it not turn into a black hole of top-team R&D silliness, I’d say it would be an interesting addition. On the other hand, I know F1 and give them an inch, they’ll take a mile on the engineering and development arm of the equation. There are several cases of an element they didn’t need to spend the money on but they do.… Read more »

Clayton Brown

(taking deep breathes trying to remain calm) … ummmm no! What is going on with you and FryDaddy. Traction Control and Anti-Lock Breaks make a novice driver comparable to a pro (just look at Top Gears “Hot Laps” with real pros vs old wrinkly men). Active controls take that to another level. Todd – I thought you were a little too ok with this concept on the show. I mean, I think this would completely ruin formula one. It’s like saying, “They are talking about switching the championship to be remote control cars. Teams will have to make a 1:32… Read more »

Clayton Brown

Which is exactly the reason I hate it. Finding the “theoretical limit to all of the car performance parameters” is the drivers job. It’s literally all he has to do haha.

Honestly, I think that kind of tech that helps the driver (traction control, abs, etc) would be great in a more road relevant series, but for me, is just 100% against what F1 is about.

I think of these beastly cars, and these drivers wrestling with and eventually controlling the beast … not a computer driven car that practically drives itself.

Jamie Thomson

Regarding Paddy’s departure from Merc, they had a very interesting interview on the BBC 5Live special with Claire Williams, looking for confirmation that Paddy was going to end up with them. When she wouldn’t confirm or deny, they crossed to Toto who sounded uncomfortable and said that they decided to restructure the management for the new regulations. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but it sounded like it was Merc that decided not to renew Paddy’s contact.

Negative Camber

I haven’t seen that interview but some reports I read were that he was looking at other options mid-year in 2016 as his contract was coming to an end. It’s odd because he delivered a title-winning car so I’m not sure what the issue is. There must be some issue between management and Paddy. The whole issue is a bit odd and makes you wonder if they had their eye on James as soon as he left Ferrari. Just seems there’s more than meets the eye here.

Jamie Thomson

That’s what I think happened. When Ferrari dropped Allison, Merc wanted to pick him up which left Lowe superfluous but lucky for Merc his contract was up. That’s why they claimed they were waiting until the end of the season to renegotiate and why Lowe was happy to criticize to team over team orders in Abu Dhabi. Then when Rosberg retired and they wanted Bottas, Merc had Lowe’s gardening leave up their sleeves that they could waive for those negotiations. It all worked out pretty tidily for Merc, I hope Lowe and Williams came out well from it. That’s all… Read more »

Jamie Thomson

Plus, since Ferrari lost their technical director and Williams list their lead driver, Merc had the satisfaction of knowing that they weakened their rivals. If Ferrari’s complaint about trick suspension hurts red bull more than Merc, then they have had a pretty stellar winter, despite losing their world champ

Jamie Thomson
Negative Camber

Thanks, I’ll check it out.

Clayton Brown

In my opinion active suspension has no place in motorsport. I forget the year, but Williams rolled the active suspension out way back when and they were described as “almost autonomous”. In my opinion active suspension stopped Senna from gaining another title (or two?). If I recall there were even a few races where Williams lapped the field up to like 4th or something crazy.

Brett Jaffee

One of the reasons I’ve heard regarding bringing back active suspension is that it will actually be CHEAPER then the alternative. The argument being that active suspension is now a pretty mature technology, versus what the teams are doing now: which is spending a lot of money to design and develop very complex and exotic mechanical systems to fully exploit the rules.

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