Teams favor return to active suspension…but at what cost?

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With all of the discussions over the FRIC suspension Mercedes used in 2016 and the possible expansion of that technology that could breach the regulations, the teams have been quibbling over the best direction forward and Autosport suggests that they are now favoring a return to active suspension 2018—a system that was banned back in 1994.

It’s a bit of a double-edged sword to be honest. If you consider Formula 1 to be the pinnacle of racing technology and you reckon F1 should represent the height of technological innovation and road car relevancy, then one has to wonder why such a rudimentary technology such as active suspension is not being used.

Some F1 fans are adamant that the new hybrid power units, HD tires, DRS and advanced systems are core to F1’s DNA. Other fans suggest that F1 has gotten away from its core DNA with all these “constructs” such as hybrid power and the continual narrative that F1 is all about road relevancy. They seek a simpler, more visceral experience. That sentiment is often met with accusations of being regressive in thinking and even an old-timer’s view.

Regardless of the opinions on F1’s technology footprint on humanity, there is another issue at hand with active suspension. That issue is cost. The technology could easily be seen as a black hole for cash in R&D and while the top teams may be advocating a return to active suspension, one wonders if the smaller teams are not as excited about the possibility.

Once again, very much like the hybrid power unit, this is a technology that isn’t tangible to fans watching from the stands or on TV at home. As Autosport’s Gary Anderson points out, achieving better aerodynamic efficiency is the goal of active suspension but there is no reason that can’t be achieved via better aero designed cars. He’s no fan of technology fans can’t see or understand.

It’s an interesting situation as Liberty Media’s Ross Brawn says there is no simple answer to cure F1’s ills but it would be interesting to know what he thinks about the active suspension concept. Perhaps more interestingly is that I am seeing this narrative more and more…what would Ross do or think. The fact is, it’s the FIA and Charlie Whiting’s job to think or do something about this, not Ross’s. Oh, the times they are a changing.

Hat Tip: Autosport

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Salvu Borg Recent comment authors

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First, I want to know which teams are favoring this ridiculous proposal, though I think I know the conspirators. Do they(the teams) seriously believe this is the easiest way to settle this legality issue of quasi-FRIC/FRIC suspension? And do they really think by using standard “actuators” on active suspension will not force teams to pour money into further development? I’m already taking a few steps back from F1 this season over the new specs. But if they embrace active suspension, I’m gone and I won’t let the door hit me on the way out.

Salvu Borg
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Salvu Borg

Agree, which/who are the team/teams which are favoring active suspension?. This is all blab blab blab, all intended to skirt the problem at hand (skirting/breaching the rules). The problem at hand is, is what Mercedes and Red Bull using legal?. All the FIA have to do is (1) go over the 2016 radio conversation of RBR driver and pit wall as to the effect on aero of their suspension adjustments/calibrating. (2) go over the interview of Lowe talking to Piaolo. To have an idea (those interested) of what the difference on car attitude/behavior is like with a modern active and… Read more »