Has Lotus Renault found this year’s must-have gizmo?
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Jan 2012   |  9:56 am GMT  |  203 comments

In 2010 it was the F Duct, last year the blown diffuser, is this year’s must-have technical gizmo a braking stabilising system, innovated by Lotus?

Veteran technical journalist Giorgio Piola is writing that Lotus Renault GP has a system which brings back echoes of the “mass-damper”, one of the innovations when the team was known as Renault, that helped to win it the 2006/6 world championships.

According to Piola, the system is mechanical, operated by the driver (like the F Duct) and means that when the driver hits the brakes, it manages the ride height as the front of the car dives down, which in turn helps to keep the front wing’s performance more consistent.

The system enables the team to run a lower front ride height, as the thing which dictates how low the ride height can be on an F1 car is the limit of downward movement at the moment of peak braking.

Red Bull, Ferrari and others experimented in the last couple of years with ‘flexi-wings’, but this system will allow the front ride height to be low in a simple and efficient way.

It also has a great benefit in the races, as the cars start with 150kg of fuel, which drops to zero over the course of the race. Keeping the ride height optimised, as the car rises with a reduction on fuel load, gives a gain in lap time. We saw Ferrari lowering the ride height legally in pit stops as the fuel burns off, but this system would again have a benefit there. A tenth or two of a second per lap adds up over a 70 lap race.

The system is linked to a hydraulic cylinder inside the brake cowling. The suspension and uprights are connected to a tiny hydraulic cylinder in the upright, which can provide a few millimetres of lift at the crucial moment of the braking phase, activated by the driver.

One of the few technical rule changes for this year is the lowering of the nose of the car from a maximum of 62cm to 55cm, which when taken with the ban on off throttle blown diffusers puts an emphasis on front wing performance and means that braking stability will be affected.

As some 16% of the lap at many venues is spent braking, there are some useful gains to be made there if you can keep the car optimised when the nose dives under braking.

The system can be used in reverse under acceleration, to reduce the amount of lift in the nose and keep the front wing aerodynamics optimised.

The eagle eyed Piola, who started in F1 back in the late 1960s, spotted the cylinder in photos from the Abu Dhabi young driver test and has analysed it. Since that test the front wing regulations were finalised, but Lotus, led by technical director James Allison, was obviously ahead of the game. They are an innovative crowd, without the resources of a McLaren or a Red Bull, but with plenty of bright ideas. Last year they tried to innovate with the front blowing exhausts, which didn’t work.

I have spoken to some F1 engineers this morning and there is, inevitably, great interest in LRGP’s idea.

The next question is: is it legal? Does it constitute a moveable aerodynamic device? If it is legal then the other teams may be forced to copy it. We could have the usual pre-season rows, followed by threatened protests in Melbourne.

It will come down to the judgement of the FIA’s Charlie Whiting. In the past few years he has allowed some new technologies and banned others.

If an idea is interesting, not excessively expensive to copy and not environmentally offensive then it has a chance. It’s certainly a talking point in the run up to the new season and that’s good for F1.

As Lotus’ lead driver Kimi Raikkonen would say, ‘We will see.’

* LRGP has confirmed via Twitter that Raikkonen will get some F1 test mileage ahead of the new car tests, using a two year old car, as allowed under the test restriction rules.

“We can now confirm that Kimi Raikkonen will be completing some mileage in the team’s R30 car at Valencia on 23rd/24th January,” said the team.

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others might be excited about news like this but I for one think that if Lotus comes in to the FIA with an idea, it should be kept secret and confidential….let everyone else come up with their own ideas instead of allowing teams to COPY(and sometimes perfect) other’s ideas. You want cost-cutting measures? That’s one for sure! And further to that, once your car has been legalised as of Melbourne, they should not be allowed to add ‘new parts’…..go work hard and perfect your car…you have a whole year to do so. At the end of last season, most of those cars were mere jig-saw puzzles of bits and pieces from everyone elses cars. F1 heads and engineers lke spoilt brats….he has one, I WANT ONE TOO!


Martin once said…people underestimate how smart Kimi is……~~~ Now you know = ) he chooses LRGP for a reason~~ XD


I’m sure Lotus convinced him by showing him the innovation/s on the new car.

Perhaps he had some reason to believe Lotus would be in with a chance.

He made the right decision to go for Lotus, not Williams, that’s for sure!


James… or anyone with good knowledge on such a concept, how much time would an ‘gizmo’ like this be likely to make in lap time?


One innovation can make the season for a team…could this be it???? What a story KR 2012 world champ with another private team……nice to see the big boys beaten


I would love it if it played out like this…. Kimi for the title would be a HUGE story and Ferrari would lose thier minds if Kimi won a title the way that relationship


Latest news I’d that Ferrari is working on the same thing. Wonder if they have already tried this in India. Remember Massa and the sparks.


Good question – would explain Massa’s wing flexing under the greater angle of rake.

Also a good way to get it by the other teams unnoticed – they were to busy focusing on the flexibility of the wing to notice!


Apparently Charlie is supposed to have okd this in 2010, wonder if It was for Red Bull that would explain the fuss around the rear pof the car on the grid classic miss direction.


They other teams found out too soon. F-duct and Double Diffuser were not found until test time… this allows other teams a lot of time to build their own system and the top teams will surely make one even better with all their money and resources… hope Lotus is far enough ahaed that theirs is best… GO KIMI!


On topic, how quickly will the other teams be able to replicate this or a similar system?


The original Lotus 72 had anti-dive and Anti-squat built in and it had to be taken off as it made Jochen Rindt feel anxious, the lack of dip under breaking was disconcerting. Truly there is no new thing in F1…


update on story. FIA have looked at it and are happy. It is not adjusted by the driver direct, but connected via breaking system.



Then I reckon the FIA need to read their own regulations again. Particularly article 10.

“10.1.2 The suspension system must be so arranged that its response results only from changes in load applied to the wheels.”

“10.2.3 No adjustment may be made to the suspension system while the car is in motion.”

This system plainly and objectively contravenes both of these regulations. I would imediately lodge a protest the moment a car fitted with such a device hit the track.

If it’s declared legal I’ll give up watching F1 for good.


If I have got this right and this is some device which uses fluid, compressed under load created from the natural ‘dive’ associated with breaking, to lengthen the push rod via a slave unit, in turn raising the car (and front wing) a prescribed amount to maintain consistency, I would suspect that it will be seen to be purely mechanical and not specifically driver controlled as the action will be directly in proportion to and result from the force generated by the ‘dive’ caused from breaking. Anti-dive suspension geometry has been around for some time. I believe Colin Chapman tried with the Lotus 72 (absolutely no relation!) but apparently a corresponding lack of ‘feel’ for the driver was given as the reason it was gradually modified.

All very interesting though and good to see F1 still has scope for innovation.


Further to my initial thoughts above, it is conceivable that this system with the bias affecting cylinders within the brake duct/hub assy, could be construed as “changes in load applied to the wheels” In fact if one splits the static part of the hub/backplate in a plane parallel to the car centreline it is perfectly possible then to produce an effect entirely dependant upon load applied to the wheels, with no driver intervention. However this may still contravene 10.2.3


It may be that what some are thinking of above re patents is actually this instead from the Tech regs:

2.5 New systems or technologies :

Any new system, procedure or technology not specifically covered by these regulations, but

which is deemed permissible by the FIA Formula One Technical Department, will only be

admitted until the end of the Championship during which it is introduced. Following this the

Formula One Commission will be asked to review the technology concerned and, if they feel it

adds no value to Formula One in general, it will be specifically prohibited.

Any team whose technology is prohibited in this way will then be required to publish full

technical details of the relevant system or procedure.


I doubt this will be banned in a “Mass Damper” type way as the FIA is headed now by a professional. However I don’t see this giving Lotus a huge boost as the concept seems fairly straightforward and may be easily integrated in the designs of the other cars. If James knows enough to write about it, we can be sure the other teams know enough to be looking at their own versions. It may take a degree of time and finesse to perfect the functioning of it, but I don’t see it as being something like the F-duct or blown floors that is inherently difficult to ‘copy’.


Given that the FIA’s Charlie Whiting clearly had the opinion in 2011 that the use of exhaust gases to affect the aerodynamics of the cars was ‘illegal’, *any* ruling regarding this new innovation about the brakes is possible.

In my opinion, Charlie Whiting should find a non-technical job. I think there are two possibilities: 1) he is incompetent or 2) he is dishonest. No, let’s make it 3) he is incompetent and dishonest. Why am I being so harsh on him? Because he holds a very responsible position and because of the way he handled the exhaust gas ‘issue’ in 2011. It is clear that as per his definition, *all* of the F1 cars were illegal at least throughout the 2011 season. I think the engineers in the teams should speak out in the public more when they see obvious nonsense like what Mr. Whiting was putting out last year. I only saw one do it – Ross Brawn.

But now I also understand why the fights about technical issues can sometimes go on for so long – it is because of incompetent people like Mr. Whiting being at the very centre of it, unable to understand the rules he has helped to write and police and unable to understand the technology being the target of the rules. When it is like that, politics (=BS arguments) can be used to get rules changed mid-season.


James and friends, it is pretty difficult to describe this rumored system as “moveable aerodynamics” as the body work of the car does not move in relation to your reference plane. This is more like a driver controlled “active” suspension.


This may provide bit more details, if this is indeed the item being discussed.

James, is this the fluid inerter that ScarbsF1 talked about?



James, I’m pretty sure it’s safe to call this team simply Lotus or Lotus F1 Team now. Even the F1 website recognizes this.


What a great debate. A fascinating, pure F1 topic; outstanding article, intelligent comments, interesting views showing a variety of tangible interpretations … and no mention of international politics, romances or pop stars!!


I miss the pop stars. 🙁


That’s why we’re here!


By the same idiotic rationale the FIA used to outlaw the mass damper, this, too, is a movable aero device and will be banned.

Just like the F duct.

The steering wheel is next, btw.


There is always the assumption that lotus ‘came up with it’ because they managed to be foolish enough to be discovered with it. the fact that Red Bull, or Mclaren, or Ferrari may have come up with it first but have kept it better hidden is really the point.

Additionally, unlessit is separately managed or controlled, it will be considered part of the system and be banned. If however, it is separately managed the problem will be if the driver fails to activate it, the car will be so low it will either break regulations or cause dangerous damage and wil be… well… banned.


It was also revealed today that the “secret gizmo” actually has a name.

They call it “Kimi.”


couldn’t agree more and the one that cannot be outlawed or banned 🙂


Maybe I’m beating a dead horse, but how was the mass damper a movable aerodynamic device if it was inside the car ?


It wasn’t a moveable aerodynamic device. It was something that Max didn’t like, probably partly because Max didn’t like Flavio and wanted Ferrari and Schumacher to win the title. Back then, that was a good enough reason to have something banned.


Yep that’s about right, it was a moveable anti-ferrari device.

Also see my comment on post number 46.


It controlled(damped) the up and down movement of the nose of the car(to which the WING is attached to)when the car went over bumps.


Illegal. Be banned before the first race.


I think it was the Brabham 78 or thereabouts which had what sounds like a system similar in concept but with the actuating cylinders working directly off the brake pedal inside the cockpit. Of course it was banned the following season.



The cylinder between the front right and left suspension components on the Renault/Lotus is a fluid inerter, using the mass of a heavy fluid in a similar manner to the way the J-damper uses a spinning mass. They are basically mechanical capacitors. They smooth out suspension fluctuations/vibrations.

There are ways to oppose the pitch of the car (aiding in a lower initial ride height) by linking the front and rear dampers hydraulicly. I believe this is how Renault/Lotus originally discovered the fluid inerter. Mercedes was rumored to have such a system this year. They did have a system in the rear that linked the right and left dampers opposing roll in corners. Depending on how the system is set up, it can oppose heave as well, negating the need for a heave spring.

The blown front wing that Mercedes ran could be doing something similar in that it allows a lower initial ride height. It would stall the front wing at its highest loading, which would be along the straights, relieving downforce and negating the need to run a higher initial ride height to keep the wing from grinding.

The brake system can be altered in the cockpit by the driver. I think if you link the brake system to a hydraulic damper system, it -might- be legal.

As others noted here, Craig Scarborough has excellent write-ups on some of this technology.

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