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.


No while there are similarities to active suspension the raison d’etre is different. This system cannot keep a car level in cornering, but it can keep the front ride height reasonably constant, and therefore allow the front wing to be closer to the ground

across the width of the wing rather than tapering like a flexi-wing which means improved performance and presumably higher downforce levels. Of course all depends what the FIA view of it is.


It’s either adjustable aero or suspension, or both!

Everyone know about the aero rules but the suspension is covered in Article 10.

The first para of which is:

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

So that rules out any type of driver input.

Then if 10.2.1 and 10.2.2 are insufficient we come to:

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

Adjustment must include stiffening or altering bias. Once you allow that then you are on the way back to active suspension, which while brilliant, is also banned.


Im not sure I understand, arent the roll/sway bars adjustable from the steering wheel? We always hear of the drivers adjusting balance from corner to corner.


By linking dampers between each wheel, you can oppose pitch, roll and heave. I think this is probably what kind of system Renault/Lotus is running. It is rumored that Mercedes, Virgin and (I think) Toro Rosso ran such systems as well.

Tyrell ran a hydramatic suspension system way back when, but I don’t think it worked so well.


Can they fit the trick brakes on a 2010 test car? The tyres won’t be the ones used in 2010, and there’s no point testing it with an F-duct. Presumably it’ll be black and gold, and not yellow. Does anyone actually check how “original” these two-year-old test cars are?!


The point is that the teams cant improved on the current desing because the 2 year old car is too different to the new desing, therefore any test carried out on them would have no value to the new car.


What’s old is new again. In 1990 the Tyrrell 019 used a similar device, hydraulically-actualed, that lowered ride height as fuel burned off.


Hello James. Nice find about Lotus. Thank you!

Sorry for been a little bit off topic, but I’m trying to find any article about patent in F1 and there’s nothing out there in the web.

So, do you have any clue about why, apparently, there’s no law to protect innovation in F1?


Another reason why they don’t patent is that you have to provide details in the patent. And doing so gives teh other teams a clear outline of the system, it’s function, details.

Imagine a patent for Red Bull Blown Defuser? May as well just give the competition your blueprints.

So, no patent, no fight, no need to share, other teams can figure it out but will likely take longer doing so.

Which – coming back – makes this whole LRGP patent a strange one.


Patents can be easily overcome, too, if not carefully written.

A competitor once had a really good drillbit with a patented feature with a specified 5 deg angle. We copied it, changed it to 7 and were off and running, and it was actually better, too.


And the patent pending period is probably too lengthy as well. During which time teams will develop the toy. Once patent would be granted toy is End Of Life anyway. I’m not sure what the restrictions are during patent pending period, but I’m not sure it’s so restricting at all.

What point would it be for McLaren to finally two years later be granted a patent for F-Duct?

Basically – patents would allow teams to sue each other over IP. And what good does that do to F1?


While James is looking into it I was thinking about it over lunch.

Think about what kid of damage could be done to F1 if teams started patenting things and getting into patent battles to protect their trick toy discovery. So to prevent a monopoly on an idea which could damage the sport and create a situation where other teams loose the desire to participate if something really clever is discovered, they have to give the free license to other teams. This ensures level of fairness, sport is not damaged, teams can all evolve together, and no money is wasted on courts. Usually first to discover gets a period of advantage anyway. And you can’t allow for a long advantage in F1 as patent law permits. Also, this is supposed to be “gentlemen” racing, right? Finally, if some team was causing this type of trouble, FIA could just change the rules to take the advantage away. So share your “toys” boys (at least a little bit) or we’ll make you share is the bottom line.

This is why we never heard about an idea like F-Duct, Dumpner, Blowing, etc. being patented.

However, it would make perfect sense that if Red Bull had patented blowing, that Ferrari would have to pay them if it is going to be on their next super car sold in the market place. Hey, at $300K a pop or more, I’d want it on my Ferrari! Helps you keep traction when pulling out of the garage.


I’m looking into it. Thanks


The patent process takes a long time and you will only have protection for about 6 months until the papers are fully signed off. In F1 development is so fast and the rules so instable it almost makes no sense.


@ Carlos: An interesting example is Williams’ KERS. They went out of the box in 2008-09 by creating a flywheel-based KERS, then decided not to use it in F1 but to protect it and commercialise it. I don’t know all the details – surely James does!


Hi James. Going through a patent application process normally takes time, from several months to a couple of years. My current understanding is that these timescales are far too long for F1 and the teams “spend” their know-how straight on the track without bothering about IP protection – things move fast in F1.


Patents may not be that useful in F1, but for sure they’re useful to the road cars developed by some of the F1 teams. I mean, I can see the Lotus F1 engineers spend time and money to develop this new stability control system, patent it, and then transfer the technology to their road cars…


Exactly this.

F1 teams recognise that the advantage they get from a new innovation is usually short lived as staff move between teams so often that secrets don’t stay secret for long.

Recently it has seemed that the regulations have changed in a shorter timescale than the patent process……


I’ve been wondering whether the second brake pedal that McLaren got caught with, and was subsquently banned, would now be legal under the current regulations?


Great question but pls explain your reasoning why it may be legal now.


My assumption is if the ride height is being allowed to be tied to breaking then independent control of the front and rear breaks would seem a logical variation.


This has the hallmarks of active suspension to me, given that it provides the driver with direct control over the front suspension movement. I’ll have to check the rules again but if it does function as suggested I can’t see it passing scrutineering.


Isn’t this a type of active ride? If so I thought active ride was banned?


Do we know how the driver operates the system? Is it a brake balance-type knob, a paddle, something akin to an additional pedal (McLaren might have a view on this!) or is it partly automated through some kind of pedal pressure sensor?

I’m also curious about the mercury aspect. Normally considered elementa non grata and subject to all manner or restrictions, including air transportation, the issue of safety in the event of a shunt would need careful consideration, too.

The original mass damper idea was much better and should, of course, never have been outlawed.


It absolutely SHOULD have been outlawed!!!

However the banning of the mass damper was a scandal but not because it was the wrong decision, but because it was for the wrong reason!

Any sane person knows you can only call a device aerodynamic if it is in the air stream. The mass damper was a stability device (the bi-product of which was aerodynamic).

The mass damper worked by using it’s mass as ballast. We all know moveable ballast is not allowed and therefore it should have been banned for this reason only. The FIA rules state all ballast must be fixed.

Yes there are other types of ballast that move such as the driver and the fuel, but these are allowable because ballast is not the primary function. The mass dampers only function could have been to use it’s weight as moveable ballast to improve stability.

The decision to ban was correct.


I’m a bit disappointed that Renault was caught so early- this could have been a real advantage for them (at least for the first half of the season)- but, too late. I’m pretty sure McLaren, Ferrair and Red bull have assigned 8 engineers to develop a similar device in case Renault’s device is declared legal…

Renault might as well develop the device and then sell it along with the engine and the KERS package to other teams on eBay…


Renault…. Who are they?


Renault are what Lotus were called last year. I for one am still getting used to the outcome of the Lotus/Lotus dispute. At least the team currently known as Lotus will only have one manufacturer on it this year (unless Lada’s sponsorship turns out to be longer than Vitaly Petrov’s tenure).


I don’t expect the Lotus car to be a front runner in terms of aero/downforce, but something like this can make up deficits in other areas, until of course the opposition get it. I still think Red Bull will be the car to beat, but everyone will be pushing hard, particularly McLaren and Ferrari to break their monopoly. It will be interesting to see how quickly Kimi gets up to speed, but I see the tyres as the main obstacle.


I don’t expect the Lotus car to be a front runner in terms of aero/downforce, but something like this can make up deficits in other areas, until of course the opposition get it. I still think Red Bull will be the car to beat, but everyone will be pushing hard, particularly McLaren and Ferrari to break their monopoly. It will be interesting to see how quickly Kimi gets up to speed, but I see the tyres as the main obstacle


I have a feeling that if Lotus produce a good car, Grosjean will out perform Kimi for a least the first half of the season. I see him struggling like Schumacher did when he came back. Grosjean never stopped driving single seaters so he might have an edge..


Not a chance!

Unlike Schumi’s retirement, Raikkonen has been racing the last 2 years, just not in an F1 car so he should still be sharp.

Kubica once said that rally driving made him a better F1 driver, let’s hope this is the case with Kimi.

If so he’ll be blindingly fast!


Kimi’s natural speed is unparalleled and the rusts are expected to come off during pre-season testing… so, no I beg to differ 🙂


As we’ve seen before, if the FIA decide they want to ban it, they’ll ban it, regardless of whether it fits within the existing regulations or not.


There is typo ” that helped to win it the 2006/6 world championships.”

Should be 2005/6 :>


I’ve seen many here refer to scarbsf1’s post on the fluid damper, which is basically an inerter that uses fluid instead of mass to counteract for secondary spring effects coming from high profile tyres and the suspension. This, I believe, has nothing to do with what James is saying that Piola has discovered. James claims that Renault will be using hydraulic cylinders positioned inside the brake cooling (the fluid inerter hydraulically links the suspension) which will be DRIVER-ACTIVATED (the fluid inerter is passive) and will have an effect on the ride height.

Scarbsf1’s inerter is a 100% legal device – it’s a development of the mass inerter that has been used for many, many years and is still being used.

What James is suggesting is something entirely different, which I am sure falls into the illegal category.


Agreed, as far as I can tell the two are completely separate devices.


Hmm now I’m confused; had assumed the devices were ‘similar’ and therefore by implication ‘both legal’ (even though I agree with those who feel it shouldn’t be!). James could you somehow clarify? I’m sure you must have talked to a few engineers by now to get an opinion?! Thanks


No, they have nothing to do with each other 🙂

The fluid inerter (or damper, or whatever you want to call it) is attached to the suspension and is passive. The device that James describes is two cylinders positioned in the brake ducts of each wheel that are attached to the push rod and are activated either via the braking fluid or a pump.

Completely different 🙂



Fascinating article, and once again brought to mind something I have often wondered, I have seen his work in publications for some years.

What is Piola’s standing within F1?

Do the teams respect him, or do they wish they could hide their cars from him?

Does he have special dispensation from FOM to access all areas?



Gary Anderson has said in Autosport before that Piola could probably design a half decent F1 car if he wanted, so very highly respected by the teams.

Which also means that dont want him anywhere near there cars!


Very very high. One of the greats.

Teams respect him and try to hide cars from him, of course.

No special FOM access


just a thought, probably already raised but wouldn’t it be foolish to openly discuss innovation this early in the season? wouldn’t a piece of tech like this be failry easy to copy by other teams James?


Yes, it’s an easy thing to copy. Not expensive like blown exhausts and F Ducts.


Personally I think its a curve ball to shift focus from something else. remember redbull using stickers to hide their exhaust outlets?

far too early to show your hand.


After this season being a write off, would you not want to test a risky concept before you commit to it?


it was tested in abudabi


At least in the strictest sense of the term, it’s a moveable aerodynamic device. It would also seem that it could be used to alter the front ride height beyond the allowed limits. Finally, it presents a safety issues, for if it failed at a critical time, an accident could result. Therefore, I suspect that it will be banned.


I don’t think its changing the ride height beyond the the allowed limits ( if there is any , ie planks etc. force them from rubbing on the ground )

and as for safety , i guess that’s a dubious one , more risk in DRS failing and staying open when it should not … and that’s a thing F1 asked for.



I don’t disagree with your reply, I merely wanted to expose possibilities.

Regardless, thanks for your reply.


Surprised Lotus are happy to give out as much info as that.

Or is it an amalgamation of rumours, insider info, and some other engineers casting their expert eye on it?


They aren’t. It’s Piola’s story


Never mind a moveable aerodynamic device (for which I always thought Renault were unfairly treated), does this not border on active suspension if the driver is in effect lifting the front of the car under braking?


Nothing like keeping your aces up your sleeve… If this is a serious bit of kit they must be livid that news of it is out there. I hope they have some other gizmos hidden away. They are going to need them…


Hey James, great article I love these pre-season stories!

Did any of the F1 engineers mention the complexity of the system? I mean, how easy would it be for other teams to copy the system before the test or first race?


If Raikkonen ends up fighting for wins or at least podiums with this car and the Williams is most likely struggling at the back again he will breath some sigh of relief Willy negotiations broke down.


I think he’ll be breathing a sigh of relief regardless of this – Williams seems to be a team in disarray at the moment and I’ll bet on the Lotus being a better car with our without this feature.


It is something that moves to specifically affect aerod.

However, as we know, Formula 1 rule interpretation is about politics, not definitions or facts…

This might explain what Red Bull did in Q3 though. (on light fuel also…)


Hi James,

An interesting article, but I’m not certain your ride argument is quite right.

The determinant of ride height is plank wear – too much and the car is disqualified. The plank height is defines the reference plane that the rest of the car is measured against to ensure its dimensions are legal. The front wing needs to be a minimum height above the reference plane when static. With rake, the reference plane will pass through the ground at some point. Forward rake brings the front wing closer to the ground.

When a wing is close to the ground it starts to benefit from a concept know as wing-in-ground effect. The close proximity to the ground increases the wing effectiveness. I don’t believe it is a venturi effect as it also applies to planes and helicopters. Heavily laden helicopters can take off but then not climb until they get forward speed as well to increase lift.

The Ferrari and Red Bull flexi-wings were exploiting wing-in ground effect but getting the wing beneath the legal static height. What Lotus is proposing doesn’t change the wing relative to the reference plane. What it does is control the wing pitch and the degree of wing-in-ground effect (to a lesser extent), which means that its operating range is reduced and it can be optimised.

I suspect, on the basis only of thinking about your text, that the lift effect will work proportionally to the brake pressure applied by the driver, which in effect is governed by the downforce generated by the car as this is the primary source of the friction force used by the car. If that is the case then it would not have the effect of ride control in the corners and hence have less benefit than Ferrari’s pit stop changes to the ride height.

Happy to argued that I’m wrong – proof might take a while to emerge.




Is it not the case that RBR were gaining an advantage by having the car at a rake (plus alleged flex) that meant that the front wing was closer to the ground. The limiting factor here being that when cars brake they lurch forward and the front wing still has to remain off the ground. If lotus can adjust and remove this lurching they can run their cars on a steeper rake and hence have their front wings closer to the ground, or at a more constant proximity to the ground, and thus gain greater downforce.


Yes, it’s a venturi effect.


The point about the ride height determinant came from an F1 engineer


It will be interesting to see how they answer the ‘moveable aerodynamic device’ question – although it does sound like its function is to prevent the wing from moving…..

But it is good to see inovation, so lets hope this is allowed



“Let’s wait & see”!


I’m not reading too much into this. The nature of the Formula 1 arms race means that when you think you are onto the Next Big Thing, you keep it as secret as possible for as long as possible, or else someone will be able to build their own version. If Lotus so much as think that this might by a viable idea, then it’s a card they would want to keep close to their chest. Spilling the beans three weeks out from the first test means that they’re either doubtful of it, or grossly incompetent. Based on their chronic mismanagement last year and their inability to develop the front-facing exhausts into anytihng useful, I’m guessing that Lotus are the latter.


As I posted above, this is a patented device in the public domain. Hence Lotus probably want to make money out of other people using the idea (possibly commercially) rather than a F1 benefit that was dubious either in legality or uniqueness (hard to copy).


Sounds very much like a moveable aerodynamic device to me…


This will defn be classed as a movable aerodynamic device.


If it’s as described in this article then it is already banned according to this rule –

3.15 ….

With the exception of the parts necessary for the adjustment described in Article 3.18, any car system, device or procedure which uses, or is suspected of using, driver movement as a means of altering the aerodynamic characteristics of the car is prohibited.


I think they will counter that by claiming that it’s a mechanical device which seeks to prevent the alteration of the aerodynamic characteristics present in previous designs.

If you think about it, the squat & dive present in current suspension systems could be considered: through the drivers movement on throttle & brake pedels: in breach of rule 3.15.


You’ve got to love F1! 🙂


I’m extremely disappointed this has come out. Lotus Renault need all the headway they can get to give Kimi the best possible car. Now everyone will develop their own stabilizers, negating the advantage.


but what if the tail is wagging the dog…?


The banning of the mass damper was a scandal. How this was ever considered a moveable aerodynamic device is still beyond me.

Good on the Enstone people to keep on being creative.

I was lucky enough to attend two GPs this year at either end of the pit lane to hear the distinctive sound of the front exhaust at low speed – quite an experience I must admit.


The banning of the mass damper was a scandal but not because it was the wrong decision, but because it was for the wrong reason!

Any sane person knows you can only call a device aerodynamic if it is in the air stream. The mass damper was a stability device (the bi-product of which was aerodynamic).

The mass damper worked by using it’s mass as ballast. We all know moveable ballast is not allowed and therefore it should have been banned for this reason only.

Yes there are other types of ballast that move such as the driver and the fuel, but these are allowable because ballast is not the primary function. The mass dampers only function could have been to use it’s weight as moveable ballast to improve stability.

I rest my case.


The mass damper, if I remember correctly, was knocked back when Ferrari had more clout during the Schumacher years. (When everybody thought F.I.A. stood for something else, less neutral)

It was totally brilliant and a shame to see such a great innovation, which brought a fair advantage to Renault quashed by the “powers that be”.

I think the FIA are being more careful these days not to be seen as “obviously” favouring any one team, or to be re-interpreting their own rule book mid season in anyone’s favour.

But then, saying that, there were a couple of episodes this year where they outlawed devices mid season…

Can’t remember for the life of me what they were right now.


Ferrari International Assistance to the rescue


even though Ferrari are also reasonably far along in their own development


I think the rationale was that the mass itself was part of the nosecone, and as the nosecone is itself an aerodynamic device that definition was extended to it. I don’t know the specifics, but that seems the most logical explanation to me.


Oh, no, another shady technology =(

For me it totally looks like “moveable aerodynamic device” and actually even a bit more – a backdoor for active suspension.

I already envision Lotus explaining its legality with the words that no aerodynamic part is moving… well I think with such words they can explain the legality of incorporating small jet engines in the helmet of a driver and car’s bodywork.

Don’t get me wrong, I also like innovations brought by genius minds in F1, but when they are based on controversial ideas and rule bending… well they lose all the charm.

I might be alone (though I hope not), that FIA will ban this tech.


The problem with your concern is that the regulations are so tight that innovation will only occur in gray areas where the rules are not specific. Thus, any real innovation may be construed as rule-bending.

Likewise, when one (or two) team(s) come up with an innovation (see above: gray area ideas) that is beneficial, of course it will be controversial as all the other teams will be on their back foot.

I did not like the double-diffuser, nor the f-duct, but I admit they were clever; the same could be said for exhaust blown diffusers. But there is a way around this.

A. make it a spec-series; in my opinion this will never completely happen because the big teams don’t want it. I don’t think the fans want it either but I don’t think the FIA really cares what the fans want.

B. figure out what you want the end result to be and open up innovation in those areas. For example, if the FIA wanted F1 to be more road car relevant they could allow for energy harvesting, reduce fuel allotments. If they wanted to promote a particular technology (KERS or EBD) or area (aero) they could allow innovation in those areas.

The stuff that you don’t like—gray area innovation that leads to disagreements—is a product of the system.


This is great comment. I do agree!


James, do you think this is a genuine discovery by Piola? would it not be foolish of LRGP to give the game away so early? or is it misinformation to take interest away from other innovations?

Also, what is wiley Brawn up to? probably innovating like mad at present


God bless the Grapevine. We’re all eager for news and secrets so if one comes out into the open, we’re all keen to hear it! It’s up to the teams to keep things hush-hush. But as has been pointed out by several people here, this system has been patented and so is in the public domain. It just took one person to bring it to our attention!


Very interesting. I remember that McLaren were experimenting with some sort of breaking stability system a tthe end of 2010 that didnt work too well, it was the reason Jenson had such an awful Korean GP that year. I doubt they’ve used it since with the way the front of last years car bounced around all over the place under breaking. If these systems are similar, it would be interesting to see if Lotus get it right.


How interesting an idea is, whether it’s excessively expensive and its degree of environmental offensiveness all seem like pretty crooked foundations for interpreting the rules, and it’s a shame the FIA operate that way. If a component entirely inside the car can be ruled an aerodynamic device, and bodywork designed to enhance performance by flexing can be compliant with the rule against flexible bodywork, then it’s anyone’s guess whether this Renault device is legal.


Anti dive like anti squat is usually controlled by the geometry built into wishbone mounting positions and can be adjusted with shims. Also it is difficult to go from rear end aero dependant to front end dependant without changing weight distribution or is that no longer mandated by the FIA?


Hi Ian

I think the weight distribution rule was to control Pirelli to a degree. I can’t see any point in Pirelli changing its tyres too much, if the rule goes, when there is no competition, so the weight distribution and aero balance is likely to be the same.

My understanding of the exhaust blowing function is that energises the air to aid the performance of the entire floor – it in itself doesn’t add to a rear end aero bias, just an increase in levels.




I would love for Kimi to (unexpectedly) end up in the car with this season’s surprise, killer innovation!

James, didn’t understand the lowering of the nose but, is it really 62cm down to 55cm, or should that have been mm?! Or do I not actually know what the ‘nose’ is?


Lets not get carried away quite yet. Has anyone forgotten about the front facing exhaust which was touted as the must have for 2011? Until redbull smashed it out of the park with their much copied rear feeding diffuser layout 🙂


Its the maximum height of the nose cone above the ground, or where ever it is they measure it from. So Red Bull’s super high nose cone wont be so high from now on.


I wonder if this high nose cone contributed to Webbers flip the other year. Would a lower nose cone have stopped that from happenning?


Webbers flip was caused by his left front hitting Kovy’s right rear wheel.


On the other hand, would a lower nose cone make it worse for an accident like Perez at monaco. If he hits head on instead of sideways, could the nose cone have pushed under the barriers?


ok, thanks for clarifying – I was imagine they’d measure from the point closest to the ground, in which case 55cm sounds like a lot – your explanation(s) make more sense though!


it because of the side impact hight of the nose, in case of an accident – actual noses are to high and a danger for the other driver sitting low in his cockpit.

the new rule was introduced because of driver safety reasons



I’m sure that measurement is tip of the nose to the ground (and not the wing.)


According to this excellent and more in-depth technical analysis of the device – http://scarbsf1.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/lotus-renault-gp-fluid-inerter/ – yes, it will be legal by precedent.


Scarbs is most likely a [mod]. A lot of stuff he copies from others without giving credit. Almost all of those images I have seen before.


Thanks for the link, only thing wrong now is that my head hurts! Fascinating to see the level of engineering involved and I really hope that the Mercury is a red herring and that they have some other fluid “up their sleeves” to allow them to get further up the field this year.

I found the 1 car domination this year a bit of an anticlimax after last year and though I would love McMl to give JB something to drive away from the pack and become WC again it would be a close second to have maybe 6 teams in with a chance of winning every race. Has anyone seen the LH GQ photo shoot pics? and the article?


I saw AndyB post this on another site:


If I’m not mistaken, F1 teams that patent innovations – such as this – have to allow other F1 teams a free licence to use the patents in their F1 designs and cars. If this is the case, then LRGP cannot stop other teams from adopting this for themselves. So perhaps the main reason for patenting it is to be able to licence it out to other car manufacturers to use in their commercial products to bring in outside revenues?

Is that the case James? If you patent – other teams get free license to it?


Good question – I don’t know, but I’ll find out


A patent is a license that allows the owner to block others from selling the patented item.

It does not prevent others from making the item for there own use. Surprisingly, a patent does not allow the owner to sell the item as this could infringe other patents.

So Lotus could make and sell the technology to HRT for example provided it did not infringe anybody elses patent.


They patented it!

Now that’s the way to protect the idea. New era of F1 petents coming your way. No more copying and stealing ideas. I know Williams panted their flywheel KERS – which is not used, but has patent ownership ever been used in F1 to protect a design?


When you patent an innovation you have to publish details of the construction and how it works. Nine times out of ten that gives too much away and the idea can be copied in principle — and so get round the patent — if not in detail. So it’s usually better to just keep quiet about it.


Thats not actually correct. According to the article the reason it was first banned was because they thought that it controlled the pitch sensitivity of the car. That was later proved as false in that system allowing them to run it again.

What James is suggesting controls the pitch sensitivity, which is therefore not allowed by the interpretation they used in that article.


The ScarabsF1 article also mentions the toxicity of mercury. It’s also highly corrosive to aluminum, and therefore illegal to transport via aircraft regardless of quantity or container. So the mercury also presents a potential problem for any aluminum components in the car in the event of a leak. Another safety reason to ban these devices that use mercury.

Thanks for the link.


James, thanks again for the information that cannot be found anywhere else online 🙂 Quick question, if true, how much closer will this bring Lotus Renault to the front running teams? Better or more stable braking is where one can make some time on other cars so I guess this will be a handy tool.

How long until teams copy if? 😉


Well, as usual, they could ban it, just like Mass Damper, or allow it (reliability reasons, etc).

In general, when such systems are developed, FIA is consulted prior to even get it on the drawing board, so revealing the truth is close.


Another great exclusive James – is this the mercury-based damper system I’ve heard rumours about?

Obviously at this stage in the year most teams will have a pretty good idea what the other teams are up to, even if the rest of us don’t. Are any of the other teams thought to have stumbled across any major innovations for 2012?


They have patented dampers using mercury, apparently. Not sure if they are involved here


I thought F1 and patents weren’t a good fit as you have to reveal the application publicly to all your competitors, and there is little commercial value in it? Is there a reason why this is different?

On the subject of IP/Innovation, I strongly believe the FIA should act as a regulator in this field by allowing teams that submit innovative devices such as F-Ducts/Double/Blown Diffusers etc the right to use it exclusively for a year. It would act as an incentive to see innovation and different cars as the advantage would last for a season, generate better racing as only a McLaren would be quick down the straights, but only a Red Bull would be faster around the corners for a season.

Finally, there would be a cost benefit as everyone would redesign their cars in a more efficient way for the start of the next season. Didn’t it cost Red Bull $1 Million to do the F duct as they had to redesign their wiring loom?


Mmmm, ride height dependant on temperature!

Mercury is very heavy so it seem unlikely.


If they are using mercury it would be hard to call it green.


To mc.

CO2 is also found in nature!


Why do you say that? Mercury is found in nature.


Off to the BatLabs, to develop Green Mercury, Stat!


Great news that the engineers are once again trying to beat one another to the next best thing. The battle of the f-duct and it’s imitations, coupled with the absence of DRS was a great sideshow to the fantastic 2010 season. One cant help but wonder though James. As professional as the engineers are, do they lose a little heart and motivation knowing they have to think up some miracle innovation to combat DRS? Anything innovation that’s short of half a second a lap is in danger of being countered by the videogame-like push button speed of the movable rear wing….to an extent. I for one would like to see teams rewarded for ingenuity….here’s hoping DRS is gone by 2013. Thanks for a great site James!


I hope it works but if we are reading about it now, it means the big 3 are already investigating/copying…..

Isn’t it just plain old Lotus now, in the same way Mclaren is not always Mclaren Mercedes, it’s only Lotus Renault in the context of classification, not everyday speak…?


AS I read Scarbs fluid inerter article, (I might be wrong) they can’t copy it, due to patents.



Scarbs wrote a blog about it: Lotus Renault GP: Fluid Inerter, Posted on November 29, 2011

it is patented.

have fun,



It has nothing to do with the fluid inerter. But what troubles me is that it is in affect a form of active suspension which was actually banned at the end of 1996 (?). It is not a movable aerodynamic devise as it seems seek to maintain the designed ride height of the front wing ie active suspension. No?


It was end of 92 I recall, as wasnt it on Mansells car the year he won? Bit hazy on details.

The difference on the active car (if you saw it in the garage at gps running a sim), the car dampers themselves and individual ride heights from the wheels changed constantly.

It was quite impressive to watch, a real feat of engineering actually.


That’s the first thing I thought.


End of 93 think you will find!


Inerter? Isn’t that what McLaren call their J-Damper?


Hi Andrew,

I think so. check the blog: http://scarbsf1.wordpress.com/ it is very good I think


Kimi for the TITLE! GO!


How does that song go again?

Dreamer. You know you are a dreamer.

But this is that lovely time of the season when anything may be possible. And so anyone can dream. I know there are many Schumi dreamers here too.


Have Mclaren got a similar system as rumours persist that they’ve already gained the down force levels of last year?


It was 30% of the lost DF back not all of it


What? who are your sources? the cars will be 2 seconds a lap slower than last year.


Even with the ban on EBDs at Silverstone they were not 2 seconds a lap slower. Add to that a full year of running on the Pirelli tyres means that we will not see cars that are 2 seconds a lap slower. The teams will all claw back the loss of downforce from the ban on EBDs…some quicker than others.


The exhausts were still blowing through the diffusers at silverstone but they were only allowed 10% engine over run when off throttle.


Scarbs on Twitter re-tweeted one of his followers who’d stated Mclaren were already at this years levels of down force, just wondered if they’d used a similar method as rumoured above. Suppose will have to see at the first test.


Sounds like a very interesting piece of tech, but wasn’t the mass damper banned because it affected the car’s aerodynamics and thus constituted a moveable aerodynamic device?

Surely this is the same thing. If it’s optimising where the front wing sits in the airflow at particular parts of the track, the FIA will look at it in the same way they did with the damper, no?

That said, I hope it doesn’t get banned. Not only would it be great for Lotus to have an ace up their sleeve for Kimi’s return, it would be nice to have performance differentiated by more genuine technical wizardry.


This new device is legal to the letter of the law if it can be argued it is driver operated. Technically only fully automated suspension levelling systems (other than the normal suspension component such as springs and shocks etc)can be considered illegal.

Yes it will only operate when the driver touches the pedal but does this mean its a manual device? At the moment I can only see this getting banned if the FIA decides the mechanism is automatic, outside of independant driver control and not the primary function of the brake pedal.

Also see my comment on the mass damper scandal, post number 20.


Well…. latest reports, Autosport, say it’s all legal so we’ll be off and running like a lost dog again whilst the Muppet in charge dithers. And the cars haven’t even turned a wheel yet!


Max is no longer in charge so that previous political decision is unlikely to be repeated.


But Charlie is……….and so’s Ferrari.


Damper was functioning as a stand alone device.

This one seems to be activated by the driver’s action. But if F-Duct was rulled out, and this works on same driver intervention – it may be challanged as James says.

I always wondered why they don’t use the power of leverage and allow the pedal to compress the suspension ever so slightly to allow the car front to be lowered. The shocks/springs are right there, so are the pedals – how hard could it be to link the two?

This is not a hugely complex system, and getting it right will take no time at all. Plus it’s January – plenty of time to put it into place for all teams. You can’t show your cards this early in the game Lotus!


Interesting that I was not alone in thinking this.

Not that I am pretending to understand the technical regulations in any great detail, am I correct in thinking that F1 cars have anti-roll bars(or something to that effect), and if they do, they also control the posture of the car. This makes it an aerodynamic device too? To an average guy like me it is part of the suspension system, not in the direct air flow of the car in an aerodynamic sense.

I never understood the banning of mass damper, so for the same reason I am not understanding this new system on Renault.


I suspect Lotus will be cursing the eagle-eyed journo… It has given the other teams time to catch up whereas if it hadn’t broken cover until the first tests they would have had the advantage for the first few races.

That said, James only talks about a few tenths a lap gain, Lotus were much more than that behind towards the end of last season.


Ferrari thought the same as lotus and are already developing


FORZA KIMI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


We’ll see. Heh


As much as I wish we gonna have lots of drivers, cars and teams battle it out of the top spots, I have a feeling you will be dissapointed.

I am expecting more of a challenge from Mercedes and Schumacher/Rosberg than from Lotus and Kimi tbh.


Don’t care, I’m just happy that Kimi is back. There are many doubters but what’s there to stop the Kimi fans from wishing him good luck and all the best?? =)


Then I for one -whilst wishing Merc all the very best- am hoping you are wrong…


At last some good gossip to watch out for… just what this sport is about innovation and technology.

Would Lotus have already passed this by Charlie to understand the legalities??

Thanks James


Reading the Scarbs description of what this is and how it works, there should be no grounds to ban it, based on the similar (albeit potentially less advanced) solutions that other teams are already running…. we shall see tho!


A good question, as there is always the risk of leaks. Based on what James has described, I can’t see the idea compromising the rest of the car in the way the some innovations might. It if is allowed then it makes the rest of the car faster.

It would allow the aerodynamicists to go for more extreme wing designs as the pitch sensitivity of the floor would be reduced, and therefore, you could argue that my first point is wrong. However, I suspect that this sort of aero development would be part of the development race, and unlikely to be debuted in Melbourne as there is too much risk of turning up and having car that doesn’t work.




Absolutely, although were I a F1 team in the development stage of a new car I wouldn’t let this guy get within a mile of it from now on 😉

I think Lotus were let down throughout last season, moving rapidly backwards as they did, by the lack of experieince of their drivers and, therefore, by Kubica’s rather foolish/selfish decision to risk everything on a hobby (an opinion that is not popular but is coldly accurate).


Convenient that you missed out the part were they admited they had gone down a blind alley in terms of development with the front exit exhaust. This hurt their season far more than anything on the driver front.


They did try a redbull style exhaust system but the car wasn’t developed with that kind of set up in mind and as a result it didn’t work particularly well. not much an experienced driver can do about that, they needed Bob Bell & Pat Symonds IMO


Yes, in your opinion, Andrew, this potentially hurt their season more than driver issues. Yet a solid, experienced driver may have been able to help them develop their way out of the hole they dug for themselves. Regardless, the team are hardly going to come out and say what I said above are they?


They would have asked Charlie some leading questions but would have kept the specifics to thesmelves as the answers get distributed to all the teams.


Charlie exhibits similar characteristics to the now thankfully departed, Brian Barnhart of Indycar infamy.

Powers that be need to shuffle this another, past his use-by, into the mist.


Has the penny dropped yet?


McLaren actually invited Chairie to the Tech Centre to see the F-Duct to get it approved.



Normally, before trying this kind of stuff, teams consult Charlie, or whoever may give them a legal answer … if they don’t, then they could be sending money to the toilet!



Sounds intriguing. I love this time of year for F1. The excitement surrounding the new cars is amazing.


The only time of the year where you know you’re team can win:-)


I really hope this turns out to be a bust. Would hate to have another year of one team dominating.


Indeed, I love it too. I’m such a geek, when the pictures of the new cars come out I like studying them for the new ideas and solutions the engineers have come up with.


yeah i do the same – first thing i thought when i saw this story was ‘yay F1’s back!’.

First real story of the season!


I think you’re just an enthusiastic F1 fan. This is what it’s all about 🙂

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