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McLaren drop controversial suspension programme
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McLaren drop controversial suspension programme
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Apr 2010   |  2:37 pm GMT  |  161 comments

McLaren’s engineering director Paddy Lowe took part in a Vodafone teleconference today to discuss the ongoing debate over adjustable ride heights, a hot topic at the moment because of the advantage Red Bull have in qualifying by appearing to be able to run the car low to the ground in qualifying, but then raise the car up for the race when 160 kilos of fuel go in.

He said that McLaren has dropped its programme to develop its own ride height control system in light of the FIA’s rule clarification last week, but said that he believes McLaren will be closer on pace in qualifying to the Red Bull anyway due to aero developments. He believes that the wet qualifying in Malaysia masked McLaren’s true development step in single lap trim.


Although Lowe didn’t mention a figure for what an a ride height adjuster might be worth in lap time, another engineer told me that it’s roughly a tenth of a second for every millimetre, so if the suspension was moved by 4mm, which would be ideal, that would equate to 4 tenths of a second.

Red Bull strenuously deny that they have any system which changes the suspension and following the Malaysian Grand Prix the FIA issued a clarification of the rules on what is permitted. Lowe said today that this had stopped McLaren from pursuing the system that they were planning to introduce in Shanghai this weekend.

“Now that the FIA has taken a fresh view of it and drawn a different line – and one we think is nearer the historical line – we are reacting to that too, so we’ve had to change some of the things we’re doing, ” said Lowe. “We had things we were working on which we have now suspended.

“We were aware over the last few months of a different approach to it [the suspension system]; an approach which historically we hadn’t thought to be the typical interpretation [of the regulations], and we were reacting to that.”

This all goes back to wording for rules which were written to end the “active suspension” era in 1993, ironically a programme that Lowe worked on at Williams, who dominated that technology.

There are two aspects to this issue. There is what you can do to adjust the height of a car between qualifying and the race, when the car is in parc ferme and then there is what you can do during the race.

In the first case, there is a clear rule there which says that any change to the suspension would require you to start from the pit lane,

Lowe worked with Red Bull's Newey at Williams in the 1990s


“This was to stop people changing springs and ride heights,” according to Lowe. “Where this has got a little bit tricky is that you can design suspensions that self adjust during that period. There are all sorts of physical means to do that. Imagine a suspension where without any human intervention it changes its set up. You could argue that as you haven’t touched it, it’s not been changed. But what the FIA have now clarified is that even if you don’t touch it, if you have programmed it to change you have effectively made a change of set up.

“They will inspect the cars (in China) and look at what equipment is there and how it works,” in light of the new clarification.

Lowe also spoke about the clarification the FIA has also made regarding what can be done during a race to adjust the suspension, “There are systems which can be developed, which control ride height during a race, a bit like an active suspension, ” he said. “But without using external power. Such systems were captured by that interpretation, they are no different from active suspensions even if they don’t use external power.”

During a pitstop you can still adjust the ride height, but you cannot do it on the grid.

It was always going to be the case, once refueling was banned for 2010, that if a team could find a way within the rules to run the car low in qualifying and then raise it up for the full tank running, it would be very competitive. Red Bull would not have been able to put anything on its car without first running it past the FIA’s Charlie Whiting, as with the double diffuser last season and the McLaren rear wing this year. It is his job to interpret the rules, see whether a proposed design fits it from there to state the FIA’s interpretation.

It will be interesting to see whether this changes anything with regard to what is already on the cars.

McLaren has been focussed on its revolutionary wing and on optimising its aerodynamics and didn’t get onto the adjustable suspension early enough, according to Lowe,
“We got the feeling we were rather late to the game, relative to some others.” said Lowe. “We don’t know if anyone has been racing anything in the nature of ride height control systems. We definitely got the feeling that others were further advanced in development.”

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161 Comments
  1. Jake says:

    Good move. Maybe they will focus on catching up with the other teams as far as point table goes and pray that Ferrari & Red Bull are way behind in coming up with any kind of ‘F-Duct’ soon.

  2. Alex says:

    I was wondering if RedBull could have mounted the fuel tank directly to the rear axel. This would mean the car wouldn’t change height when the fuel got lower?

    1. Baktru says:

      Errm no. You fail at car suspension construction forever.

      1. Henry says:

        Never mind suspension construction, any form of car construction. I would love to see that idea in a picture.

    2. m00bie says:

      is there any rule to say that you cant macanically lower the floor (underneeth) of an f1 car?

      just thinking of otherways of getting less clearence without touching the suspenssion!!!

      1. Tim says:

        It would almost certainly be illegal as a moveable aerodynamic device.

      2. Mark says:

        It would probably cause more problems than it solved.

  3. Scott Joslin says:

    I interpret this as the suspension system Mclaren were developing is now considered illegal following on from the recent FIA clarification and Paddy is therefore saying Redbull are possibly running and illegal system.

    One thing is “for sure”, no team or F1 commentators are specific about how they achieve this suspension trick, with the double defuser and F-duct explanations were out there quite quickly, I am not sure how much smoke and mirrors are being used or actually if any of the teams really understand how the Redbull suspension actually works.

    1. Henry says:

      Well unlike the F-duct and the double diffuser, the internals of the suspension are completely hidden, and while most of the teams will have plenty of brain power to work out various systems of ride height adjustment, copying something so concealed is never going to be possible.

  4. Adrian says:

    I get the impression there’s an awful lot of smoke and mirrors going on here. I do think that Red Bull – perhaps not uniquely – have found a way to allow their cars to run low on low fuel in qualifying without infringing the regulations as they stood before clarification and also without infringing the regulations as they stood after clarification. Maclaren perhaps believe that their idea of what Red Bull have been doing has been ruled out by the rules clarification, but maybe Maclaren are wrong about how Red Bull were achieving this in the first place.

    The loophole that leaps to my mind is that while active suspension is prohibited and no adjustments are permitted during parc ferme conditions, there does not seem to be anything which prevents a change in ride height being achieved by physical influences during qualifying itself (as opposed to parc ferme) – see the clarification: “Any system device or procedure, the purpose and/or effect of which is to change the set-up of the suspension, ***while the car is under parc ferme conditions*** will be deemed to contravene art 34.5* of the sporting regulations,” (my emphasis added).

    What would not seem to be prohibited – an e.g. for purely hypothetical purposes – would be an e.g. clockwork device (or similar based on temperature or escaping gas) which automatically (i.e. not driver influenced) raised the ride height 4mm, say 4 minutes after the car left the pits, but still ***during qualifying*** (whether this is a matter of seconds or otherwise).

    1. neil murgatroyd says:

      no, I’m afraid that doesn’t work, qualifying is done in parc ferme conditions

    2. Robert says:

      Adrian, parc ferme starts with the clock in Q1. The clarification states that any and all changes to ride height, be it manipulated by a mechanic or a tricky mechanical device, is illegal.

      There is no doubt Red Bull had something that changed the ride height during the break between qualifying and race. It’ll be interesting if Red Bull now bring a much “higher” car to qualifying this weekend. And if so, will the FIA step out and revoke all points they and their drivers earned in the first 3 races of the year.

      If DDD’s were ruled illegal last year, the talk was of Brawn, Toyota and Williams being stripped of their points.

      1. Pierce89 says:

        Actually, there is a doubt of whether Red Bull even has anything special in their suspension. They just have much better aero, just like last year.

      2. Robert says:

        I respectfully disagree regarding your remarks of it all being aero. When a car sits low to the ground with just a few kilo’s in the tank, and then is sitting 4mm higher the next day after having 150 kilo’s added, the suspension setup has changed – somehow.

    3. rpaco says:

      I’m afraid they got you again, because parc ferme begins when you first leave the pit lane in Q1.
      34.1 Each car will be deemed to be in parc fermé from the time at which it leaves the pit lane for the first time during qualifying practice until the start of the race. Any car which fails to leave the pit lane during qualifying practice will be deemed to be in parc fermé at the end of Q1

      And re your clockwork suspension:
      “But what the FIA have now clarified is that even if you don’t touch it, if you have programmed it to change you have effectively made a change of set up.”

      So they have you all ways! My sprung cams which move when the car is jacked up on the grid are not allowed either.
      So how are Red Bull doing it? we shall see hopefully in the next session. they are not now allowed to screen or shield the car or parts of it from general view.

      1. Jake says:

        The simple answer to how Red Bull is doing it is that they built the car better than anybody else according to regulations. The aerodynamic rules hasn’t changed much compare to last season. And towards the end of the season Red Bull had the fastest car on the grid. They just made it better without breaching any regulations. FIA didn’t find any evidence of Red Bull breaching the regulations. It’s as simple as that.

        McLaren is just over the limit concerned (and openly) and struggling to accept that Vettel & Red Bull are just better.

      2. Mario says:

        It is extremely likely you are right. We will find out in China. If RB had something and they had to remove it they should lose some performance. I bet they won’t.

      3. Gary says:

        Which does absoultly nothing to explain how the Red Bull was bottoming out with little fuel in qualifiying and somehow manage to add 160kg of fuel and not touch the ground.

      4. Henry says:

        Is it possible that they merely have a very effective, efficient damping setup, that works better than the others? (I know very little about F1 suspension!) I suppose what I’m asking is how sure are we that their ride height is changing?

        Basically it doesn’t matter how they were doing it – it has now been stipulated that it cannot change during parc ferme, so essentially cannot be changed at all until the first pit stop, as they can’t change it during the race. So If it was being done, it is illegal. If it wasn’t being done, then how do they have such efficient suspension?

      5. Stefanos says:

        If park ferme is no longer in force after the start of the race, can the driver not adjust suspension height right after the start (i.e. on the installation lap)?
        It strikes me that any suspension adjustment between qualy and race trim must be re-adjustable in mid-race, otherwise the car will be higher than the average car for at least 50% of the race (assuming a linear relationship between weight of fuel and ride height and no intervention during pit stops such like Ferrari) and therefore at a speed disadvantage.

      6. rpaco says:

        Sorry, gotcha again with the following:
        10.2.2 Any powered device which is capable of altering the configuration or affecting the performance of any part of the suspension system is forbidden.
        10.2.3 No adjustment may be made to the suspension system while the car is in motion.

        It can be altered in a pit stop though, if you have clever non powered system which moves all the members by the correct amount.

    4. Richard says:

      I like that idea! In fact it wouldn’t even need to be timed, presumably it could be activated by the driver on the slowing down lap.

    5. F1Novice says:

      OK here’s a wild one and don’t have time to go back and check out the facts that may or may not prove or disprove it – supposing Red Bull put in their fastest lap in 3rd quali on low fuel and low suspension settings on their penultimate qualifying lap then return to the pits raise the car by just enough put in race fuel and go out and do another lap albeit slower that – would get around the Parc Ferme bit wouldn’t it ? – As we don’t get the car weights this year that could hide that tactic – so in fact they would be going into Parc Ferme already fueled and ride height adjusted for the race – the obvious thing that would kibosh this hypothesis is if Vettel has always set his pole lap on his last lap then this would not ring true – i don’t have those details to a hand does anybody else ? – sometimes the best ideas are the simplest – if they aren’t doing this – why aren’t they waht in the rules stops them ? Scrutineering after quali is looking for minimum car weights not maximum ??

      1. rpaco says:

        No go, they are in parc ferme:
        34.1 Each car will be deemed to be in parc fermé from the time at which it leaves the pit lane for the first time during qualifying practice until the start of the race.

        Only after the race has started can the setup be changed and then only when stationary.

    6. MikeW says:

      Except Parc Ferme exists from the moment you leave the pit lane in Q1 through to the start of the race. So you can’t change this at a set time during qualifying.

      1. F1Novice says:

        Ok that puts that one to bed :)

      2. Phil C says:

        Ah… but during qualifying, according to the FIA sporting regulations..

        compressed gases may be drained or added

        So maybe a pneumatic system to adjust the shocks…?

    7. Adrian says:

      OK – it looks like my team would have some red faces when they were hauled up in front of the stewards…! I hadn’t appreciated parc ferme applied to qualifying (seems a bit of a misnomer?).

      Some of the below comments focus on the fact that Red Bull has pull-rod rather than push-rod rear suspension, but I doubt that this has much to do with it, since they introduced for aerodynamic purposes long before the no-refuelling rule.

      I imagine that it would be possible to design a system which adjusted the ride height mechanically when fuel was introduced, but presumably this would infringe the rules and so far as I understand things, the Red Bulls were running low during qualifying but already appeared to have their ride height higher once they had returned from the track.

      1. James Allen says:

        I think Paddy’s line about ‘programming suspension to change’ is interesting here.

      2. F1Novice says:

        What about tyre pressures or gas the gas used in the tyres ? I’m not a scientist so do not know the answer to the following question. Is there a gas they could be using in their tyres that doesn’t “compress” when more weight is added or expand when weight is taken off ?

        Or is there a gas which expands at a greater rate than the Nitrogen I think F1 teams have used in the past when heated – so they could run them at slightly cooler temps in quali but increase there temps either via the tyre warmers or an internal heating element within the wheel at the start of the race ? Is the Tyre classed as part of the suspension ?

        (I’m a little surprised McLaren haven’t Head Hunted someone in the know from Red Bull yet :) )

      3. Euan says:

        All the tyres are supplied by bridgestone so the red bull tyres are no different to anyone elses.

  5. k9major says:

    Once again, we are seemingly back to questions about the wording of the regulations. Teams must now be employing learned literary theorists looking for loopholes in the semantics of the rulebook. A rule that was framed in 1993 to bring an end to active suspension must now need updating to reflect current technology, using language to cover that. Clever engineering solutions are the lifeblood of F1 design, questionable interpretations of the actual words used does F1′s image no good at all. Haven’t we all heard the Red Bull car bottoming out in qualifying?

    1. Carl says:

      This is no different to Statue which all depends on the judge interpreting that statute using the literary, golden or mischief rule.

    2. Henry says:

      For a change I am going to take the FIAs side on this – the problem with the regulations are that if the parameters are too exact, then there is no room for clever design, but once again they can’t be too vague or there will be huge differences across the field – not an easy balance to strike.

  6. KP says:

    Is there a widespread feeling within leading team engineers on on whether Red Bull are running a clever (but legal) suspension system or whether they have managed to pull the wool over Charlie’s eyes.

  7. Gilles says:

    Strange: RB can apparently change their ride height, but any way you do that, is illegal.
    Their cars however, have passed scrutineering already 3 times …
    Does the FIA understand its own rules ?

    1. Luca says:

      I’m sure that they do understand the rules that they have put in place (although it does make you wonder!). But surely its no coincidence that the RB car is the only one with pull rod suspension rather than pull rod like all the other teams….

      i would imagine its a very very clever design and due to the fact that the suspension set-up is unique, it will be very hard for any other team to quickly slap the same system on their own car without revamping the whole backend of the car…. if anything i would imagine most people will copy the ferrari system of manual adjustments in the pitstops.

      1. Tim says:

        It’s almost certainly a coincidence. Pullrods and pushrods are just different ways of connecting the wheel to the damper/spring units. Going for one over the other has an impact on how you package the suspension but not much more than that.

        I’m frankly amazed at how Red Bull’s use of pullrod suspension has captured the imagination of so many fans to such a degree.

  8. Jasper says:

    James, is it true that Ferrari have a crank system that they use to adjust the ride height at pit stops?

    Can’t help but feel McLaren missed the boat by focussing on developing their F Duct concept. However Red Bull are doing it, it’s clearly something? They’re obviously getting a big advantage in qualifying and Ferrari also have an advantage although not as significant over the rest as the Red Bulls. In Melbourne remember the Red Bull was 7 tenths faster than the fastest McLaren and Alonso’s Ferrari was 2 tenths off Vettel. But then on race pace those three cars are much more closely matched.

      1. Luke Robbins says:

        why dont mclaren just get this in quick sharp whilst they work out how to get around the rules a-la red bull

      2. rpaco says:

        It’s not that easy to design and package and guarantee that it will work and not break or slip during the race as the car bashes over kerbs etc. If the car just ran on a smooth surface with no outside forces it would be relatively simple. It also introduces another variable and an FMEA would give a very bad score.

  9. Pierre says:

    • Thanks James, very interesting and insightfull as usual.
    • What do you think of this? Strange isn’t it?
    On one side we have Red Bull sure of what it’s doing (no need to change the car, which I believe), and on the other one, we have McLaren sure enough to stop a development that would infringe the rules…
    Interesting things were said “off the microphone”?!
    • Last, I wonder how much Reb Bull performances relates to the Renault engine (not brutal but very progressive and low fuel consumption) and I think it’s not hazard to see Renault performing well too…

  10. Mark Edwards says:

    Ok then, would I be right in thinking that rather than try an expensive re-design to include Redbull style suspension, Mclaren have questioned the FIA on the interpretation of their own rules?

    This has then resulted in the tightening of the loophole RB were exploiting which will mean their trick suspension is now illegal?

    We’ll find out on saturday I guess!

  11. Brace says:

    The fact that they need to “interpret” the rules just goes to show how incompetent FIA is when it comes to governing the sport.
    They aren’t reading ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, but the book in English language.
    Why would any engineer with decent knowledge of F1 need someone to interpret the rule book for him?
    FIA is totally incompetent when it comes to making a clear set of rules and that is sadly just one of many of their duties they fail at.

    I mean this isn’t your arts and crafts. This is cutting edge of science.
    It is either allowed or not.

    With every passing year I’m getting more frustrated with administrative and governing side of F1 because it’s influencing the core of the sport.
    I don’t care about show as it is a sport and not a circus, but I just want it to go into some positive direction.
    And from the amount of exposure administration and governing body are getting, you can tell that there’s a lot improvement to be made in how F1 is ran.

    1. Neil says:

      Speaking as a professional engineer, English (or any other natural language) is a rubbish way to try to achieve unambiguous description. The only way to get complete clarity is to describe something maths, when it is amenable to formal, sound, rigorous, proof.

      Nobody would build a house or a bridge based on a textural description! There would be drawings, measurements, calculations, etc.

      There are ways to describe eg the F1 rules in maths, but the FIA have chosen not to take them.

      Neil.

      1. rpaco says:

        And yet you would be left bemused on the very first reading of the tech regs sections 3.8 to 3.12 inclusive.
        However they have provided drawings in the regs showing the areas/volumes defined, in the separate appendix document. Drawings 1a to 17a

    2. rpaco says:

      Ah but you see it’s not what the rules say it’s what they don’t say that is open to interpretation. The gaps between is where most of the innovation comes from now.

    3. Tim says:

      For some F1 fans it has become a bit of a mantra that the FIA must be doing a terrible job because there are continual discussions over what is permitted by the regulations. I think this betrays a lack of insight into F1 and the fundamental problems of being a regulator. I’ll try to explain why.

      When any regulator prepares a new regulation there are two basic stages it has to go through. The first stage is defining the desired outcome of the new regulation, which is often referred to as the spirit of the regulation. The second stage is turning that aim – which is usually quite vaguely defined and open to a wide degree of interpretation – into a precise and succinct form of words against which compliance can then be measured.

      For example, the FIA might want to reduce levels of downforce by 30%. But it can’t simply write a regulation that says “all cars must have 30% less downforce than they did last year”. Downforce varies from car to car, from track to track. Measuring overall levels of downforce to enforce the rule would be nearly impossible. As a regulation it is entirely clear in its intention, but it would be impossible to enforce and therefore worthless.

      The challenge for any regulator is in coming up with a form of words that prevents what it wants prevented but allows what it wants to allow. It sounds simple but it’s actually quite a difficult task. In a fast moving, competitive and innovative environment like F1 this task is virtually impossible. The FIA has to anticipate all of the very clever solutions that a group of very clever engineers might come up with.

      There are grey areas within the regulations – but that is largely a good thing because it allows teams the freedom to experiment and innovate to find the best solution. That scope for innovation has been consistently shrinking for some time. The rules could be made clearer still – but that essentially require turning F1 into a spec formula using standardised parts. Most people agree that would be a bad thing.

      1. James Allen says:

        I think that’s pretty balanced, thanks for that. The other point is that it has to stop what it sees as a dangerous direction for the sport to go in terms of new interpretations of rules. At the moment Charlie Whiting says, I can see what you are doing here but I don’t want us all to go down that road. He let Double Diffusers through, but has stopped other things.

        To be fair to Paddy Lowe he did say yesterday that he sympathises with the FIA trying to interpret and police the rules.

      2. rpaco says:

        A good reply Tim, in fact it really requires an adversarial system with expert advisors to knock holes in the regs and refine out the loopholes before publishing. But just look we have had 3 versions this season including the so called “Stable” regulations, which lasted very few weeks before being superseded by another less pretentious version.

        But if we did get perfect regs it wouldn’t be the same, it’s always been part of the challenge to find new ways of circumventing the written word.

  12. Tom says:

    James,

    I’d like to know your opinion on two of my own theories regarding this mornings statements from paddy lowe:

    1. In light of the clarification from the FIA, which Mclaren obviously feel is strongly worded enough to preclude any form of adjustable suspension self-adjusting or otherwisde, would you say their next move must surely be to lodge an official protest citing said FIA literature?

    2. Another interpretation, certainly a somewhat cynical one, is that this morning’s conference was simply part of a campaign of disinformation. Have Mclaren decided to go ahead with an illegal modification of identical or similar ilk to that of the Red Bull? If this were the case then what better way to divert the attentions of the other teams, who would surely protest or copy the system if they were made aware of it (the opposite to the effect of Whitmarsh’s comments which are possibly damaging in light of both the clarification and their own developments).

    Finally, would you be able to enlighten me with the latest pitlane whisperings relating to how Red Bull’s system actually works?

    1. James Allen says:

      Well that’s just the problem, I’m not sure they know exactly how it works. Your point 2 is probably a but cynical. The FIA and other teams know when a car is running lower, it’s measurable from photos

      1. k9major says:

        So, just to clarify, is the general feeling in the pitlane that RB are running an adjustable ride height system, or is the argument about whether it’s a legal system or not? Is there a procedure in place for checking ride heights in a more scientific way other than from photos? I seem to recall that the FIA used a testing device at the back end of the ground effect era for measuring just this. Forgive my ignorance, but when exactly are the cars deemed to be under parc ferme conditions? Surely this can’t be the loophole?

  13. chris says:

    Redbull should be a couple of tenths slower this weekend when they remove their system. Red bull must be up to some kind of skullduggery to have that many fingers pointing at them.

    1. Carl says:

      They don’t have to remove their system.. The rules are the same as they were before and there car has not only passed scrutineering, but even passed when the FIA were specifically asked to look at it.

      1. chris says:

        “Now that the FIA has taken a fresh view”

        Indeed, the rules are the same but as paddy lowe points out, the interpretation of those rules have changed. We know from the double diffuser controversy that semantics play a significant part in race car development and this is why the FIA felt the need to issue a clarification.

        I was simply being flippant by suggesting that redbull will remove their system.

    2. the corpse says:

      the fia inspected the car, and they said there is not such a system in the red bull. Are the blind, or stupid like montoya said. I think not.

    3. A.K. says:

      not that many, only a sourpuss mclaren. typical

  14. knoxploration says:

    “We don’t know if anyone has been racing anything in the nature of ride height control systems.”, says Lowe.

    …but that hasn’t stopped McLaren from throwing out accusations left, right and center branded as “fact”, has it?

    Maybe next time McLaren can be clear in stating that their accusations have no grounding in knowledge, and are nothing more than jealous guesses.

    1. krampa says:

      Not so fast. Read James’ reply to Tom. McLaren claim they have evidence. According to James, they can measure other teams’ ride heights using photos.

      Red Bull should be asked by the FIA to explain how they could ride low in qualifying, not adjust the ride height (as they claim not to)and not bottom out after adding over 150kgs of fuel

  15. neil murgatroyd says:

    So James, the $60,000 question, will the Red Bulls get 1/2second faster on this saturday, like they have been doing? My 2 pen’orth says they won’t, which means new (old) dampers.

    I like to bet 2p to your 60k…

    1. neil murgatroyd says:

      also, why is it that when McLaren have a system, like F-duct, the way that it works is very quickly known. But for other teams, it stays hidden, like Benneton 94, ride height or the Ferrari moveable floor (which as far as I recall, they still don’t admit to)

      1. Lionel says:

        Maybe McLaren has got too many cuckoos in the nest.

      2. Andy C says:

        probably a very simple answer on that I guess.

        The visibility of the duct makes it a lot easier to put see the aero than the mechanical solutions.

  16. Penfold says:

    James i’m confused.

    It seems that Red Bull are running ride height systems. Mclaren have now stopped developing their own because the FIA clarified that they are illegal. How can Red Bull continue to use them?

    1. Zobra Wambleska says:

      Because RB hasn’t admitted to having a system of any kind, so there is nothing to continue using?

    2. Paige says:

      Maybe Red Bull will also stop using theirs if they have one. This could be a “resolve behind closed doors” situation, sort of how the starter hole issue was handled.

    3. the corpse says:

      they don’t have the system, or so fia said.

    4. Glynn Harrold says:

      We don’t really know if they are able to continue to use it. We’ll have to see how Qualifying plays out (providing it stays dry).

      1. Nick Someone says:

        …Although how are we supposed to tell since Malaysia had a wet qualifying session. Mclaren had aero updates in Malaysia and a few more coming for china. It’s likely they will be much closer and everyone will say “aha”, but in reality the relative change could be down to updates or finding a good setup.

  17. Lee Gilbert says:

    James,

    Please put this is SIMPLE English cos I am a little confused

    It appears that:

    a) Red Bull are running a system of some form (that has been declared legal)
    b) Mclaren have stopped developing their own because they are actually illegal

    Now what exactly is going on here! Seems like a big contradiction

    I also remember reading recently that Mclaren would be running some sort of system to improve quali pace in China

    Does this announcement mean in reality that Mclaren have been told that there is no whizz bang system and such a system would be illegal but in reality Paddy Lowe has discovered the way to do it anyway within the rules?

    1. Phil C says:

      IF Red Bull have a system, it is legal, as the car was inspected in Malaysia and declared so. It’s believed Ferrari have a system which is manual and used in Pit Stops.

      Mclaren have only said they have stopped developing THEIR system, which would have been illegal under the rules.

      The probable explanation is that Red Bull have spent months developing a system – if they have one – that is legal under the FIA rules. However how it works is hidden in the car. In order to play catch-up, McLaren have developed a system which would be illegal, a quick fix, and have therefore stopped work on it.

      IF Red Bull do have a system.

      James, why has no one published photos of the Red Bull on the same piece of track in qualifying and the race, so we can all see and make up our minds?

  18. Eric says:

    I’m sure it is possible to design a passive pneumatic system that keeps a constant ride height whatever force is applied to it. Therefore, if the height of the car is kept constantly low throughout qualifying and the race then there is no problem because it has not changed, even though the mass of the car has.

    1. Pedro says:

      “passive pneumatic system that keeps a constant ride height whatever force is applied to it”

      Would that not make it active?

      1. Eric says:

        For it to be active, the pneumatic pressure in the cylinder would have to be controlled by some sort of system. I’m no mechanical engineer, but I have spoken to one, and our understanding is that it should be possible to design a passive system which exerts different resistive forces depending on the mass applied. This means that it could be designed such that with a heavy car it creates more force against gravity, and a lighter car less force, keeping the ride height constant. If the damping response of the system is designed correctly, the time constant should be long enough that the ride height of the car doesn’t change in response to sudden impacts (hitting a kerb, for example) and allows these to be absorbed by the suspension system. Potentially, this could all be achieved inside one closed pneumatic cylinder, with no control system.

    2. Gilles says:

      I think you might be on to something; RB has a different suspension from the others (push or pull rod).
      The issue seems to be that in quali the car is lower than the others; it is never said to be lower than the others in racing as well.
      If they don’t alter their ride height and keep it low all the time, there’s indeed nothing illegal about it.

  19. Shane says:

    Could it be some kind of memory metal (do a wiki search for shape memory alloy) being used? Something that changes property/shape based on conditions (weight, heat, time).

    Gossip is one thing, if as you say they can measure gaps in photos, why not present said photos showing the height discrepancy and end all the debate?

    1. Ben says:

      This is what I have been thinking – although changing shape would constitute a moveable aero piece even if it didn’t actually affect the airflow (see Renault mass dampers)

      However, the hotter a piece of metal gets, the softer it gets. Renaut has positioned it’s exhausts under the suspension. If they preheat re suspension prior to qualfying the car will sit lower. The suspension will cool and harder over night so by the race it will sit higher.

      During the race the suspension is heated by the exhausts thus lowering the car during the race.

      It would only affect the rear suspension (but this is most critical as the fuel tank is situated nearer the rear of the car.) The trick is configuring the exhaust not to warm up the suspension too quickly during the race.

  20. Kyle H says:

    Could it be quite simply that the fundamental characteristics of the RBR’s unique pull-rod rear suspension design are just better suited to coping with the large changes in car weight (fuel) and load (downforce/G-forces) compared to the systems other teams are using?

    Advantageous merits of their suspension design could be:

    1. More consistency in performance high loads/weights, contributing to better mechanical grip than rivals in high-speed corners where aero load and g-forces are at their highest

    2. Better compensation for increasing loads/weight of the car, i.e. their suspension translates extra weight to a smaller change in ride height compared to rivals, allowing them to run lower in qualifying as a result.

    If this is the case, it could even provide some insight as to why RBR are characteristically so fast in the high-speed corners, including last season when they were also using a different suspension design from rivals:

    We know that a balance between aerodynamic and mechanical grip go hand-in-hand when designing a competitive car. We are often reminded that mechanical grip is more important in low-speed situations and aero grip in high-speed, but clearly there is a synergy between the two in ALL situations that should also be considered.

    Last season’s BBC coverage repeatedly alluded that the RBR’s advantage over rival teams in high-speed corners was due to superior aerodynamic performance. I suggest that instead, the merits of how their suspension system reacts under high loads could have been the decisive difference that allowed them to gain an advantage over rivals, and subsequently, they have carried this forward into the design of their car for this year.

    In other words, perhaps RBR’s alternative suspension design means that their car doesn’t sacrifice as much mechanical grip in high-speed corners where downforce and G-force loads are highest, whilst rival teams experience a comparatively larger drop off in suspension performance under high loads, the net result being less mechanical stability and/or grip in high speed corners.

    I hope that makes some sense to read.

    1. Ryan Eckford says:

      I think you could be on to something as RB6 has pull rod system for the rear suspension, push rod system for the front suspension, while every other team has a push rod system for front and rear suspension.

    2. Gilles says:

      Thanks for your enlighting comment, it does make sense to me !

    3. rpaco says:

      The geometry enabled by or resulting from using a pull rod system, rather than the fact of the pullrod system itself.

  21. Frankie Allen says:

    It would not surprise me if having a lower ride height during qualification may give greater gains. If you are having issues getting the tyres to work, that extra add on could even multiply more?

    Paddy Lowe confirmed from his discussions with the FIA, that it is unequivocal that RBR can not have ride height control, unless they are cheating. Something I strongly believe they are not.

    So why are their qualification times so good in comparison to race pace? Well I suppose it should be no surprise that RBR was very good at getting it’s tyres to work last season, something they have extended possibly this season. How much this has to do with RBR’s pull rod suspension I do not know, but the big teams will soon know with the performance of the RBR’s continuing to puzzle.

    There is no doubt from the qualification to race pace that RBR are doing something special to other teams. Well done again Newey and long may F1 be graced by designers of this ilk.

    1. Nick Someone says:

      It could be that Red Bull has not yet shown their true race pace yet. In Bahrain everyone was going a bit slow because they were worried about the tyres. In Australia There was an early change to slicks which meant they all had to be careful to make there tyres last. In Malaysia they were nervous about reliability, and the cars that might have challenged them for race pace were stuck way down the field and were no threat.

      My working assumption was that the Redbull did have a clever device, but then I saw Christian Horner being interviewed on the BBC during the Malaysia GP and he was so adamant that they didn’t have a clever system. A politician could use some word play in such a situation if they had something to hide, but Horner was unambiguous. Surely he wouldn’t be foolish enough to lie on live TV.

  22. Gezmond says:

    Whos willing to put money on red bull losing their advantage in qualifying this saturday then???

    I reckon this whole saga is going to get quite messy if they dont…

  23. Freespech says:

    James, time to show the F1 world just how good your contacts and information are, what are Redbull actually doing?

    1. Freespeech says:

      So I guess when push comes to shove not that good then :?:

      1. Phil C says:

        If Red Bull haven’t told the world media, why would they tell James? I’m sure even David Coulthard may know, but he hasn’t broadcast it on BBC!

        So why would Red Bull tell anyone who would leak their system to a Journalist?

        All we know is that the car is legal, it was declared legal before the race in Malaysia. Remember, the FIA have not changed the rules since, they’ve only issued a clarification of a rule that has existed for years, and existed when the Red Bull was checked.

        As to what they’re doing, it’s all guesswork

      2. Freespeech says:

        If the Redbull car does not lower when the extra weight of the fuel is added they must have a system that stops it so doing, as such their car has to be illegal as the FIA have stated that ANY system or device etc

        I cannot believe that none of the engineers of the many other excellent teams don’t know what Redbull are doing and it was these contacts I expected James to get his info from and not Redbull directly :)

  24. Glynn Harrold says:

    So, if Red Bull are running some sort of system that adjusts the ride height they either have something that is legal under the new clarification, or not. The comments from Horner seem to indicated that they are not effected by this new clarification and don’t need to change anything mechanically (but they may just mean that they now don’t have to undo the bleed valve or what ever is used to control it). It definitely a case of misdirection from some teams. I find this quite intriguing and can’t wait to see how things develop in Qualifying.

  25. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    James, any comments on Mercedes GP “B” car? I read that they are working on an update for Spain with a longer wheelbase.

  26. Kieren says:

    Well I for one can’t wait to find out how this system actually works. Whether it be a piece of technical wizardry or a cunning interpretation of what the rules allow. I’m sure James will do a good article on it when the news comes out. In the mean time, happy guessing! :)

  27. Andy C says:

    I think the fia should state that ride height adjustment can be set on low fuel, then 1 change to that once quali ends.

    Surely that would create a better performance for all in quali then level off for racing.

    James,
    you mentioned that teams and the fia have the possibility of measuring ride height via photos. Presumably if this is the case they would warn redbull had they seen proof?

    Do you see this as the fia putting a shot across the bows, and avoiding another public row like mass damper/double diffuser/active suspension (need I go on).

    I must say it must be very frustrating for f1 designers and engineers these days. Not much room to innovate. Leaps like braking/semi auto gearboxes etc just won’t happen.

    And I doubt my road car would benefit from a stallablw rear wing ;-)

    on that note, what is your road car. I’d have you down as a 911 man?

    1. Stu B says:

      [Quote]I think the fia should state that ride height adjustment can be set on low fuel, then 1 change to that once quali ends.[/Quote]

      My thoughts exactly. Its a simple fix theoretically as long as the rules can be clarified/amended without a mile of red tape and unecessary bad press.

      Why not, its “green” energy – its free speed, as is the F-duct. Especially since it is permitted to adjust ride height during pitstops anyway, then lets have manually adjustable ride heights under the drivers control and all done via the standard ECU so its all transparent and under FIA control.

      Let everyone do it in a controlled way and it avoids any suspension-gate suspicion too. Sorted, no confusion, no controversy, mess avoided.

    2. Neil says:

      So RB might have come up with a very neat and according to them legal solution and you want to punish them by given everybody else a leg up? Yes that would be frustrating for the RB designers.

      1. Andy C says:

        Who said punish? I said make it clear, stop a silly arms race where money is spent for no good reason and could be avoided.

        I am all for innovation but simple rules and common sense also have to have a place too.

    3. “on that note, what is your road car. I’d have you down as a 911 man?”

      James answered this same question a month or two back… it’s a Land Rover Discovery. Can’t remember which model.

  28. Bill Day says:

    McLaren certainly expends a lot of breath making non-statements about what other teams are doing. Or not doing. That whole team is just wrapped to tight, in my opinion.

    1. jack_faith says:

      So true.

      But how cool is their site? JA on F1 is my first stop for F1, but the Mclaren site is some state of the art www. Everything is so inflated in F1 these days. Mclaren going overboard are in entirely in keeping with Bernie’s masterplan. It’s aiming for a kind of round the clock intensity which is all rather exploitative and indulgent and removed from the poetic appeal F1 had previously, a good number of years ago.

      1. Bill Day says:

        Thanks for your reply, you expressed something I’ve felt and haven’t articulated.

        When I think McLaren, I like to think orange cars shaped like cigar tubes — easily as pretty as the Lotus 49 and the Eagle, but never mentioned in the same breath. And the man himself, Bruce, humble yet driven to achievement. Not a natural driver, but he drove race cars because he had to, which makes his death all the more sad.

  29. Tony says:

    I thought the plank was designed to stop cars running too low to the ground. All you need to do to stop ride height cheating is make it thicker.

    1. Steven says:

      The way I understand it the planck was implemented to keep the teams from running too low of a ride height, if the plank is worn to less than XXmm then the car is disqualified. It was for safety reasons, if the ride height is too low, the car can bottom out(the bottom of the chassis will hit the road on bumps), which causes the driver to loose control of the car. At the time it was thought that one of the reasons for Sennas accident was that the car bottomed out.

    2. Frank says:

      That wouldn’t work. The issue isn’t that the cars are running “too low”. It’s that some cars might have suspension that is self adjusting to run as low as possible with both little fuel and full fuel.

      No matter the thickness of the plank you have to set up the car in qualifying to have a higher ride height, as the car is light on low fuel, so that when race fuel is added there is enough room for the suspension to compress without the legality plank hitting the ground.

      Changing the thickness of the plank would only alter the minimum achievable ride height, nothing else. It would have no effect on controlling variable ride heights.

  30. AJH says:

    Says it all….What you can do in the RACE.

  31. Mark D. Johnson says:

    I have an idea for adjustment to ride height that seems simple, and was wondering if it would be considered legal. Couldn’t a team use the weight of the fuel as leverage to adjust the height? When the car is light, the height would be where they want it to be. As you add fuel (and weight), the forces could be used as leverage which counter the gravitational forces pushing the car down, thus leaving it in perfect trim throughout the race as the car gets lighter. I realize this would take a lot more engineering to calibrate the counter forces. Couldn’t this be what Red Bull is doing?

    1. I’m not an engineer, but I reckon you’ve just described a fairly simple Active Suspension mechanism!

      1. Mark D. Johnson says:

        I don’t think so. It’s called a Fuel Weight Damper system. It has nothing to do with the suspension, it just keeps the floor off the track. (maybe it will get by them)

  32. Roy Page says:

    From a very quick design sketch, it seems that it is possible to implement an hydraulic counterbalance system which would apply more lift or support to the suspension when the fuel load was increased.
    As the fuel load reduces so would the load which the fuel applied to the counterbalance unit, allowing the suspension to self level.
    Properly designed this system would lower and raise the suspension purely relative to the weight of fuel being carried.

    No human changes needed at all other than putting in or taking out fuel.

    1. Steven says:

      That would make it an “active” system, which is clearly banned. If the ride height changes with the weight of the fuel, its active not static.

      1. Roy Page says:

        I don’t think I agree.
        The normal suspension slightly lowers when a full race load is added to the car, lowering the car.
        If you were correct normal suspension would also be an “active”.
        My design just applies the fuel load in such a way that counterbalances its weight.
        No ??
        Roy Page

      2. Steven says:

        I know what you’re saying, but the fact that it maintains the ride height regardless of the weight of the fuel makes it active. The way it is with passive system, the fuel lowers the ride height, therefore the teams need to run higher ride height in order to not wear the planck, if your system keeps the ride height constant as the fuel is spent(making the car lighter) then its active.

      3. Mark says:

        It’s a still a self adjusting system, therefore banned.

  33. barry says:

    An Open Letter and Request to James Allen

    Dear James ,
    Your blog / forums are the best thing about Formula 1 nowadays.
    I read 7 or 8 sites but most are filled with drivel and excuses as to who did or didn’t do what, and I don’t bother to read responses to their articles.
    You, however, are usually at least thought provoking, an usually very interesting and informative as well.
    I have been following Formul1 since around 1964. I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the great drivers race, although not in F1, except Long Beach the year Lauda came out of retirement.
    Most of the time I was at the Can-Am races at Laguna Seca.
    I am writing to you both as I have a suggestion/ request to you both, and if you either or both could somehow arrange it, I and I’m sure most of your audiences would enjoy it immensely.
    Ask for your readers to submit a list of questions, suggestions and concerns to you regarding things like aero, KERS, larger wheels, ground effect, down force, engine size and type, tires, brakes, and the publics’ view of f1 in their opinion and order of priority. The reason I ask this is that it seems to I recall that ground effect was banned because of high cornering speeds. There was concern that with little or no suspension, that a stuck skirt, broken suspension or puncture would be hugely dangerous.
    At the same time, I recall great battles that lasted sometimes for a lap or more (Gilles and Rene for example) during the Turbo- Ground Effect era, and this type of racing is sorely missed now. On top of all that I mentioned before, I started to notice that I not the only one that thinks these last few years have produced THE UGGLIEST F1 cars in history.
    With the present day cars producing probably as much negative lift now as they did back then, it seems to me that we need to return to the thinking of the not too distant past, as now, the floors and wings are the equal of ground effect, but don’t allow close following.
    I also think that Turbo V-4′s with Kers would be something relevant, with fuel changes over time to adapt to upcoming technologies.
    I personally think that with V-4′s there would be room for flywheel Kers, which would obviate the need for batteries, and the associated recycling. Additionally, reducing the fuel capacity by 40% would cause the need for a pit-stop and would open the window as to when it took place. No mandatory time stated. I also think limiting the amount of fuel for the race would be a good idea, but engine development should be allowed as necessary to develop better fuel efficiency.
    I think ferrous brakes should be required as the carbon brake don’t really have much use in day to day driving, and they are hugely expensive, and have made passing under braking nearly impossible, if for no other reason that the braking distances are now so short.
    Limiting the number of elements allowed in the wing to 2, with limited maximum camber, thickness, chord , span and area of end plates would be great in my mind.
    Then combined with ground effect with maximum tunnel volume specified, we could hope for cockpit adjustable rear wing sections that could assist both cornering passing and braking.
    All things related to great racing. Managed by the drivers. Pilots do it all the time, and aircraft have had ailerons , flaps, spoilers and speed brakes since the 1930′s.
    I love to have these Ideas/ questions put to a group of designer from the teams where there was 3-5 of them there to give the fans some understanding of their thought s on these and others ideas.
    Is this at all possible to do during a few race weekends?
    I’d absolutely love it
    Thank you both for taking the time to read this if you did. You’re my 2 favorite f1 people on the web.
    Sincerely,
    Barry

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks for that. Some of the things you suggest are in the pipeline already, particularly on the engine side. The idea of the site is for it to be a touch point for the fans to the sport, so they can get more out of it. Ideas put forward here do get through. There was an item on the agenda at the most recent FOTA meeting in Malaysia, put forward by one of the readers here. I have a number of plans and will put your suggestion in with them.

      1. Martin P says:

        Oooh that’s interesting. Any chance we’ll ever know what that discussion was about?!

      2. David Jerromes says:

        Yes please, can you elaborate James???!!!

      3. hamilton2010champ says:

        i’d like to know who the second person is that barry is talking about….

      4. Craig D says:

        Me too!I wonder if he thinks James Allen is two people, James and, er… Allen!!!

      5. Mark D. Johnson says:

        Maybe he was thinking James and Allen are two different people.

      6. Spenny says:

        I’d say he was suggesting James and Allen work well together!:)

      7. F1Novice says:

        Awwwww we gotta know which idea was discussed that was put forward from a reader / contributor of this site ?????

      8. James Allen says:

        The one about the top ten cars in Q3 being forced to qualify on hard tyre and start race on it.

      9. Martin P says:

        Oh God no… please don’t say they’re considering that?!!

        It’s bad enough that they force the top 10 to start on the tyre they did their fastest lap on.

        What’s so wrong with the rules being the same for every car on the track? At least we know then that their position is a true result of the team/driver/car performance on the day (force majure aside!).

        Find ways to improve the show by all means, but it has to be consistent across all competitors. Manufacturing a rule advantage/disadvantage of one car over another isn’t sport to me.

  34. Bluem says:

    Hi James,
    So if ‘nothing’ can be changed during parc ferme then what makes Ferrari’s system different? Whether manual or auto changing stays changing so then Ferrari’s is surely illegal?

    1. James Allen says:

      Because it is a mechanical system which is lowered during pit stops, so the car runs for half of the race at a better ride height. Changes during pit stops are permitted, as it says in the article. The interesting thing with the Ferrari is that the car is still very fast in qualifying, a tenth off the Red Bull in Bahrain and 8/100ths in Melbourne.

      1. Peter Freeman says:

        They are riding too low in the first stint by way of sacrifice to gain qualy pace?

  35. JohnBt says:

    Very technical and complicated topic on ride height. Only wished there’s some form of illustrations or digrams so we can understand more for fans who are not engineers or techinical personels.

  36. jay jacob says:

    Hi James, i’ve got a question for you. Would you rate Adrian Newey as Head of the class of F1 Engineering Genius? I’m inclined to think that the Red Bull’s design, as a total package, is far superior than the rest of the field, so much so that, even if the ride height system they may have were replaced, they still have a few tenths up their sleeve. Your thougths please.

    1. James Allen says:

      Well his track record from the 1990s is very strong. As David Coulthard pointed out through the 2000s his designs hadn’t won that many races in the late McLaren and early Red Bull years, but the technical team around him at RB is strong and stable and he is delivering some of his best work again. If you consider that he was behind the Williams cars of the early 1990s which won everything, then the McLaren of 1998 and 99, he has been at the forefront for a long time.

      1. jay jacob says:

        Your comments are spot on! Thanks for that.

  37. Josh says:

    I’m getting so frustrated that people keep assuming red bull have been doing something dodgy. The FIA specifically looked in that area in Malaysia, found nothing wrong, said Red Bull were fine. At worst they have a counterbalance system which has been mentioned before, which i see as been perfectly fine. I also notice Mclaren were saying they knew what red bull had, now Lowe is saying they have no proof that any team is running such a system. Sound more like confusion from Mclaren as to how they could build such a crappy car.

    1. anthony says:

      Crappy!!!

      There race pace is as good if not better than the rest!!!

      What is quite clear is that RBR have a system that controls ride height or a suspension system that does the same.

      If it is the former then it is illegal, if the latter then is it “active” suspension?

      The FIA stance would seem to be that any such system would “active” and therefore illegal.

      All eyes on qualifying!!!!!

      1. anthony says:

        Their race pace!!! Not there!

  38. Martin P says:

    Hi James,

    putting aside the rights/wrongs/are they/aren’t they in all this, what exactly is going on between McLaren and Red Bull?

    McLaren are practically saying Red Bull are getting away with something here (but clearly they don’t quite know what). Then there was the Ron Dennis ECU/sparking plug comment.

    I’m used to Ferrari having a moan and in days gone by Flavio too. But Martin Whitmarsh and the ‘new-feel’ McLaren team? It just seems out of type and I can’t figure it out.

    Even if they had a genuine gripe, McLaren strike me as a team that would use process, not gossip, to resolve it.

    Is there an off-season row between Red Bull and McLaren we don’t know about? (Mercedes engine supply apart – as Red Bull lost that one so McLaren have no reason to be bitter).

    1. James Allen says:

      I asked Christian Horner that question in Australia. Historically the established big teams have made life difficult for teams that rise up to challenge them, plus you’ve got a bit of the Adrian Newey factor; left McLaren for Red Bull. It’s normal when a team sees a threat

  39. Peter Freeman says:

    James will they be measuring the ride height of the cars before and after fuelling for the race?

  40. David Jerromes says:

    My thoughts of how the Red Bull ‘system’ or McLaren version would concentrate on a link between the fuel tank and dampers or some similar trickery..

    With a tank light on fuel the car would be low, but as the fuel added for race ‘air’ from the tank could be operating indirectly a form of suspension lift…

    Can’t think of anything else that might have worked that didn’t incorporate a moveable device, hence why I thought the fuel-tank air volume to suspension height could have been a factor….

  41. MikeW says:

    I’m trying to work out just what could be happening in that RB – if indeed anything is happening.

    If we assume that the RB is managing to sit low to the ground in both low- and high-fuel configurations, and yet not have any kind of ride-height mechanism, the conclusion has to be that the added weight of the fuel is not having any effect on the ride-height.

    Well, we can’t suddenly make the fuel weightless, but is there something we can do to negate the weight of the fuel-tank?

    I’m thinking about something like a sprung mounting for the fuel tank, and then something to help lift the tank while running. Perhaps something like a wing, with lift generated by aero. Or something levered from the downforce generated by the main wing.

    But anything I can think of that helps to reduce or negate the weight of the tank would ultimately be a form of mass damper, and probably illegal under the “movable aerodynamic part” rules.

    I’m baffled. But then so are the McLaren guys, so I’m in good company…

  42. chris green says:

    How ’bout this theory – On motorcycles it is hard to get a conventional rear spring / shock setup to work across all load ranges ie from single rider to two up with luggage; a change in load of maybe 150%. The company, Fournales came along with an air shock that allowed for large load changes by varying the pressure in the shock. Some of these devices have a remote reservoir. Maybe red bull have some type of variation on this idea. The rb6′s hydraulic systems could be used to control the pressure in the shock ie less pressure in qualifying to allow for a low ride height and more pressure for the race on a heavy fuel load. The pressure in the shock could be altered also by varying the temperature of the damnpening medium because it could be some other fluid besides air. This shock setup may also allow the use of softer springs which can have benefits like better traction and can improve the car’s ability ride bumps. We saw a lot of cars having problems with bumps in Bahrain. Maybe Red Bull also have a system that alters the spring preload because when you crank on more spring preload you also shorten the spring and alter the ride height.

    1. k9major says:

      Seeing as we’re all having a stab at this, here’s my wild theory following on from chris green; Doesn’t the RB6 have particularly low exhaust outlets, unusual enough to raise a few eyebrows at the launch? Is it possible that they are harvesting the heat from these to heat up the fluid (or gas) in the shocks to alter their height? Not too difficult to change this, perhaps with a movable heat shield between qualy & start, thereby raising the ride height on the way to the grid? The car leaves the pits at the same height it qualified at, arrives at the start the required 4mm or so higher.

      1. Mark D. Johnson says:

        You might be right, since the RB6 uses a pull rod suspension system, which means the dampers (shock absorbers) are at the bottom of the car.

    2. adam says:

      Also it’s possible they are using a semi-permeable membrane.This bleeds out gas overnight and draws in hydraulic fluid by capillary action. Gas is compressible whilst hydraulic fluid is not.Simple.

  43. Phil G says:

    The biggest change between qualifying and the race is the weight of the fuel. The car chassis and driver weights do not change.
    Could the car be designed so the the fuel tank has a separate suspension than the chassis? This would allow the car chassis height to remain constant always on its own suspension, while the fuel tank suspension freely adjusts as it burns off.
    Do the rules say that the fuel tank must be fixed (immovable) to the chassis?
    How could they design such “separate” suspension system?

    1. Mark D. Johnson says:

      Although I’m not an engineer (my partner is and I run everything by her), It wouldn’t do any good unless it was tied into the suspension, because the weight of the car is measured at the contact patch, where the tire meets the road. You would need stiffer springs, to compensate for the mass of the fuel, but you wouldn’t be able to change them. I had an idea of using the fuel mass as leverage against the suspension, but the FIA shot it down. (It’s considered “active” even if there is no human or external power required to change it). I think what the teams will be looking at next is how to quickly change the ride height during the pit stops.

  44. Freespeech says:

    The laws of physics say that when adding the extra weight of the fuel that the car would drop by a given amount dependant on the spring ratings and the additional weight, if it doesn’t and ‘NO device or system’ is allowed on the cars that would alter this then the Redbull cars have to be illegal.

  45. max says:

    I cant see anything though all this smoke, i think it was a bad move by the FIA, they should of changed it so teams could fiddle with ride hight in qualifying, we wouldn’t have the confusion that we now have, and true pace of teams could be viewed on sat.

    why couldn’t they just do that?

    This just makes for a messy season if RBR do have a way of changing their ride hight surly?

    1. James Allen says:

      One simple solution is to allow them all to make one change to the ride height in parc ferme overnight. Then it’s the same for everyone.

      1. max says:

        Exactly, then the fans would be less confused. It, would be easy and cheap for the teams to implicate. This would disperse the arguments/rumors within teams, and the cars would be able to go faster and we would know who is fastest on more equal terms (fans want to see this),

        if only we had some clever internet blog, where we could get our views heard and passed onto FOTA…..

        oh.. wait… see where im going “james”

      2. James Allen says:

        That’s where we are going..

      3. Luke A says:

        I would completely back that move. All this confusion is becoming quite tedious. It’s funny how when McLaren create something innovative, such as the F-duct, it comes under so much scrutiny from the other teams and the media that, even a non-technical minded fan can understand how they do it. Yet with many other teams their innovative ideas are kept completely ‘hush-hush’.

  46. RichyF says:

    Surely its simple, the fuel cell sits on a slave cylinder, when it is loaded with fuel the gas in that slave and thus master cylinders is compressed slightly more making the car ride higher, as the fuel is used the slave slowly decompresses lowering the internal pressure and lowering the car.

    1. Craig D says:

      Could you explain that idea further please? I was thinking that if it is illegal to alter the ride height and suspension, then any alteration to account for a change in fuel load must be happening elsewhere in the car, and it is the fuel cell which is the changing factor in all this… But I still don’t see how it could work!? If the weight of the car increases and the chassis (unsprung mass) is only supported through the suspension, then surely the ride height must lower? So how could your idea work?

    2. Mark says:

      Do you guys not get it? If the ride height is altered in ANY way during parc ferme, no matter what clever system is used, whether it is automatic or manual, it is banned. End of story.

      You can come up with whatever weird and wonderful systems you like, but if the ride height is altered, it’s not allowed.

      Sorry if that sounds harsh, but they are the facts. ;)

  47. Josh says:

    Ok saying Mclaren have a crappy car might be going too far, but i meant in qualifying compared to red bull. Christian Horner and Adrian Newey have been so direct and adament since these questions started coming up that they have nothing at all, that i really think they have nothing. Like someone else said, if they did, they would be avoiding the questions or useing clever replies to get around it. You can see the anger and frustration on CH’s face every time he is asked this. I even saw a quote from Newey saying they have neither an illegal system, or a legal one like Ferrari. People need to just let it go and realise that red bull have just done a better job

  48. Sam B says:

    So, what’s your take, James? Should the FIA change the ruling to allow for one suspension adjustment in parc ferme between qualifying and the race? Christian Horner has said this will be more cost-efficient for them, but as I understand, RBR has declared that they are against this rule tweak.

    1. James Allen says:

      Well they would be wouldn’t they.

  49. Calum says:

    James, any thoughts on what this might mean for the Red Bulls?

    Will this threaten their qualy performance?

  50. Brian says:

    I guess McLaren is still made Newey left….

    1. Brian says:

      I meant MAD!

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