That perfect ride: The must-have technical device of 2013
Innovation
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Apr 2013   |  12:24 pm GMT  |  198 comments

After the first two Grands Prix the teams have had a couple of weeks to prepare for the next pair of races in China this weekend and then Bahrain the following week.

In terms of development, new parts will be coming to many of the cars for these races, but one innovation which many will be working to perfect is the FRIC suspension system, which has helped Lotus and Mercedes for far.

FRIC stands for “Front and Rear-Interconnected” system, which links the front and rear suspension using hydraulics with the aim of improving ride stability. This helps to give the driver confidence in the car and, the real boost for 2013, it helps make the tyres work better.

The engineers are trying to maintain a static ride height as the car pitches and rolls through corners.

There are various theories as to how Lotus and Mercedes plumb in their systems, but unlike an F Duct wing or a Coanda exhaust, the FRIC system is hard to see as it is internal.

However, thanks to input from JA on F1 Technical Adviser Mark Gillan, we can explain the background to the idea and how it helps the car and driver to perform.


When a car goes through a corner it goes through a number of movements; it pitches under braking, it rolls on turn-in to the corner and on corner exit. There are a lot of changes in terms of stability and ride height and a significant amount of downforce is lost as a result.

If you could make the car more stable through those changing dynamics and fix the ride height through those manoeuvres, you would make life a lot more easy. So a lot of innovations like this one are designed to produce a stable ride height through a manoeuvre, optimise aerodynamics and maintain downforce.

This has been the focus of aerodynamic development in F1 since the late 2000s, as wind tunnels have got more sophisticated. The challenge for the aerodynamicist is to assess the trade-off between downforce and smoothing out the ride and much of the work that goes on at F1 tracks in the build up to a race is focussed on getting a good compromise for the race weekend.

The FRIC suspension works by transferring hydraulic fluid from front to rear and it does so passively, which is why it’s legal – it’s not something the driver actively controls, it happens as the car moves.

This generation of F1 cars is very sensitive to roll, so anything that can minimise the roll angle is definitely a big positive. It’s very hard to say exactly what the gain is in lap time, but it makes the driver feel more confident and that is worth something as is the other major benefit in terms of the tyres. By making the car more stable and consistent, you will make it easier on the tyres. You have more load where you want it, so the wear is more even.

FRIC is not a simple thing to integrate into a car and it is something a team would seek to keep quiet about as they develop it. So we may not see too much fanfare about it as new teams bring it on stream as the season goes on.

Interestingly Lotus and Mercedes were two teams who have been most keen on the passive DRS system, which has proved very hard to introduce as the driver feels insecure about the drag reduction and reattachment and the sudden change in ride height, when he’s not expecting it.

If through the FRIC system you could minimise the pitch in the car under straight line braking manoeurvre, that would help the stability and thus ease the driver’s insecurity. So FRIC suspension may well be a pre-cursor to the introduction of the passive DRS system in races.

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198comments

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1

This is why the old Austin 1100 & Mini were the ultimate ice race cars , hydrolastic suspension! Nice to see old technology recycled.

2

James,

Could it be possible that Mclaren is developing a FRIC system and along with the pull rod front suspension, is finding it hard to make it work correctly?

3

Didn’t Lotus try to do this last year with a different method which was disallowed? And so it’s a bit surprising that all the teams don’t already have it figured out.

4

So, this is why Raikkonen was spending so much time in pits during the pre-season testing masking it to be gearbox issues…. Clever…. as I suspected and mentioned so earlier 🙂

5

Why are we even talking about hydraulically linked suspension? It’s existed for years, when I was working at Audi the old RS6 and RS4 already had it? I can remember the nightmares trying to bleed the system when we changed shocks! was quite good actually… I just assumed it was standard on a F1 car?

6

Is this something that could get banned if other teams protest who haven’t got, or have not perfected the same system?

7

Sure, that’s pretty much the way F1 “rules” work.

They are masters at the “I cant make it work so its obviously illegal” syle of “rule-making.”

8

The FRIC system certainly helps if working properly. However, when RB or other cars that don’t have it implement it, I doubt they will be preserving their tyres as well as the Lotus or Mercedes. I suspect that the Lotus has problems in wet conditions for the same reason that it preserves well the tyres in dry conditions. And this has nothing to do witht the FRIC system.

9

I think my 1994 Landrover Defender has something similar – a passive hydraulic system to control ride height under load.

It’s silver (if a bit rusty) so Jenson’s welcome to borrow it….

10

Maybe he can use it at Silverstone. Don’t worry about the rust, they’ll paint those bits Vodafone orange 😉

11

+1 😀

12

James is it fair to say that Lotus led the way with the FRIC system as they initially tried for a similar system that worked under braking only and was disallowed by the FIA.

If it is Lotus you would have to say its a FRICKEN good comeback. Either way Im sure the other teams were exploring this avenue as soon as they found out about the Lotus one of 2011/2.

13

when does a passive system become non passive ? once you have lots of hydrolic switches / pressure switches etc , its basically a simple computer … as a computer does not need to run on electricity.

Matt

14

Off topic here, but I understand that tyres play a large part in motor racing, but I think in F1 nowadays there is simply TOO MUCH emphasis on the role of the tyres and how it affects the actual racing and the outcome of the race. Im also getting tired of the fact that during a whole race, all they (the commentators) keep talking about are tyres tyres tyres.

To make matters worse, the last 5 to 10 laps of recent races is hardly a race anymore as all teams and/or drivers have either:
a) slowed down to conserve tyres
b) slowed down to conserve fuel
c) been told to back off

15

Agreed, it’s far from ideal, but until someone comes up with a better and workable way of making the races more interesting it’s what we’ve got, and I’ll still take it over reverse grids, weight penalties, etc…

16

James,

I love this innovation stuff, and would never try to stop it, but doesn’t this do the same job as that mass damper thing that renault had? The mass damper was banned wasn’t it? From memory it was because it counted as a moveable aerodynamic device (probably wrong on that)? How is this different?

17

Lotus tried for 2012 to have some kind of device to help stability under braking, didn’t they? A system that acted on the suspension in response to braking forces. From memory it was considered reactive, not active, in that it wasn’t directly driver controlled, it just happened when the brakes were applied. The position on its legality was reversed as it was considered to be designed primarily for an aerodynamic benefit, as opposed to for braking stability as Lotus were claiming.

Or at least, that’s what was reported about it at the time. So what’s the deal? It sounds like this is much the same idea, for the same purpose but taking it even further (it’s always working, not just under braking), just that it also takes it another step away from being an active system. Not that the other one was considered active anyway.

18

Is this similar to the Kinetic Suspension Technology?

I know this system was used on some FSAE cars back in the mid 2000.

19
Schnell! schnell!

People,people!

Active suspension was introduced by Lotus in 1987 and patented as such,

Williams countered with their own system in 1988 but ran into a problem with Lotus’ patent and had to rename their system “reactive” suspension.

So to be technically correct, the only suspension system that can be called “active” is the original Lotus system and “reactive” is the Williams equivalent.

As was commonly said around the paddock at the time; What is the difference between active and reactive suspension? One and a half seconds a lap…………

Seriously though, Newey understands fluid dynamics. To suggest that he may not be able to apply fluid dynamics to suspension is to suggest that somebody who can kick a ball cannot run.

I think Sauber looks much better in all of this. To have either A. Come up with a similar system of their own on a low budget or B. Done as well as they have without something like this is a massive endorsement of their capabilities.

20

No-one ever had to rename anything because of a patent. That’s not what a patent is. Perhaps you mean a trademark, but as far as I can tell no-one has a trademark on the term “active suspension” in the automotive sector.

21

Just to add to this – it turns out in the 1980s Lotus considered registering “active suspension” as a trademark, but were unable to do so because it was a generic term.

22

James do you know if Ferrari are using this system? As ive noticed from on board footage massa’s front wing dropping and lifting again under braking? Not so much like the flexible wings of seasons past as the wing was staying flat? Seems the whole front end is dropping?

23

That’s normal, and that’s exactly what these FRIC systems are trying to prevent – if you stop the dipping under braking you can maintain the aero through the corner – so I doubt if Ferrari have this system yet, but they – and every other team with the budget for it – will definitely be looking at it.

24

I meant to say it been dropping at speed and lifting in braking? When you should be seeing the opposite?

25

Ah. In that case I have no idea 🙂

26

James it should be noted that Redbull have been running such a system in race trim since RB6. Definitive fact. Its called P-Spring. First introduced at the Korean GP of 2010. The system was mechanically adjustable between qualifying and the race, thereby altering the ride height of the car in its state without fuel and with full fuel.

The other teams are simply begining to catch on.

27

This makes perfect sense, can you expand on your source?

The tech has been in the public domain at least since Scabs article on Merc’s rear system 18 months ago. This is why I recognised the technology instantly and wondered if its something new I had missed (in F1… I know interlinked suspension has been around for some time), it’s not. Merc have run it for at least a season on the rear already, Red Bull appear to have had it for a while and Lotus have tried a similar approach using the calipers to actuate the hydraulics. It’s seems the art is in the fine tuning!

28

Do you have any references for this Simon? Googling for ‘red bull “p spring”‘ returns nothing relevant.

29

Iceman the world of F1 does not revlove around google. People rarely speak out from within f1 and the media in the pitlane rarely know the whole story, the fans even less. If James does his bit he will confirm my story.

Suffice to say that Adrian got to it before others as usual and the entire aero package has been based around a stable ride height platform ever since.

Try asking Christian Horner a direct question and you will get a swerve answer.

30

dare I ask, how did you learn about it Simon?

I saw the 2011 article on scarbs’ page, but only after i researched it because james wrote about it. I only started following scarbs about 5 months ago.

Now james and scarbs are my go-to-guys for any tech info on the spoort. f1technical is another very good site.

I am trying my hand at writing as well @ http://www.f1asphalt.com Would love insights

31

I love how the engineers of these teams find a solution to getting the desired effect by using new innovations well within the rules. And thank you James for getting this stuff out to us.

What i don’t get is how do two teams come up with such a complex yet similar device at about the same time when it is all obviously supposed to be highly secretive. A device like this wouldn’t be visible to any of the teams and yet we already have two teams with such a device and a good guess would have most other teams already working on something similar.

32

And equally, how did journalists like Craig Scarborough know something about it in 2011? Secrets seem to be harder to keep than you might expect.

33

I fail to see how seemingly inteligent people dont understand how this is completely passive.

http://scarbsf1.com/blog1/2011/10/17/mercedes-innovative-linked-rear-suspension/

I found it!! I knew I had read about this a while back. It seems both teams have been working on this for the past 2 years.

34

sorry for reposting this link here on this thread, but i think this article explains all technical aspects! (especialy scrabs summary)

____://scarbsf1.com/blog1/2011/10/17/mercedes-innovative-linked-rear-suspension/

35

This is definitely a clever gray area of the rules that’s being exploited. It doesn’t remind me so much of the old active suspension as it does the old flex front wings.

They are altering the aerodynamics of the car in response to it’s pitch/yaw/roll much like the speed of the car altered the aerodynamics of the front wing while still passing the static load tests. Neither are/were driver controlled, but the latter was effectively banned through tighter tests.

It’ll be interesting to see how big an advantage can be squeezed from this new idea and whether it’ll also fall foul of the FIA.

36

Merc has been running the system for 3 seasons now, so its not going to suddenly fall foul of FIA rules.

37

Merc has been no where for 3 seasons until now, so let’s see what happens if they start overtaking the Ferraris and Red Bulls more regularly.

38
VP of Common Sense

Regularly? In the case of Red Bull, Mercedes has yet to overtake them at all. If Alonso doesn’t hit Vettel in Malaysia, I doubt Mercedes makes the podium.

39

no, the flexible wing is a “moveable aerodynamic device” and those are clearle banned. Its completly passive.

40

I take your point, but we’ll see. Renault’s suspension in the Alonso days was considered a moveable aerodynamic device because it adjusted the ride of the car thus boosting aerodynamic efficiency. It was banned.

41

That was a “tuned mass damper” in the nose cone of the car. Completely different.

42

Well this helps to explain why Lewis was also on a 2 stop strategy in Melborne. I forget why he had to switch but if I remember correctly Lewis had the longest stint with the option tires.

It also goes a long way to explaining why Lotus is in favor of the current tire line up, as they currently have a large advantage.

In other news I am reading so many F1 article I spelled ‘tires’ as tyres the other day on something.

James do you think this is something that could be banned at some point during the season?

43

In theory it won’t be banned.

In practice…if one particular team starts using it and starts to dominate then…maybe. Not naming names *cough* redbull *cough*…

In other news, congratulations on spelling tyres correctly. Please continue 🙂

44

No, because it is passive

45

James if the current cars had a turbo version of the old 3 Litre. V10 Engine with ABS , active suspension and next years version of the energy recovery systems how much faster could the car be?

46

I guess that F1-cars that were built without any technical limitation could potentially faint the driver in a long fast corner.

47

In all seriousness, pretty damn fast until they hit a wall.

The cars have been incrementally slowed over the years for one reason or another, but a big reason is safety.

An F1 car with all those technologies would be at very the limit of – or very possibly beyond – what could safely be raced.

The racing might have been faster and more glamorous back in the day, but given the choice, I’d rather see slower cars and zero fatalities every time.

I’m not sure that answered your question – to be honest it probably ended up being more of a sermon than anything – but the only thing I’ve seen that would come close to answering your question is the X2010 / X2011 designed by Newey for Gran Turismo. Sure it’s fast, but – with respect to Newey – it’s just kind of ridiculous. If you haven’t already seen it you’ll be able to find plenty of videos on youtube…just don’t blink or you’ll miss it 🙂

48

Dont worry – as soon as RB introduces the system it will get banned

49

They have been running it since Korea 2010 Nihon.

If James does some digging he will confirm this.

50

Any mention of Ferrari’s progress on this since they are said to have been working on the passive DRS?

51

So… when the car pitches forward the gizmo increases the hyd pressure at the front and levels the ride height?

If this is right, then there is NO pressure change until the pitch is initiated, which means suspension movement has already happened. So to level it out the front suspension has to be made to move. And this is not “active” suspension?

And there’s no sensors or computers that flip nifty little valves and such?

How many lawyers do F1 teams have parsing the rules?

52

In answer to your last question, quite a few. In answer to your first question, it’s not illegal to connect suspension systems and is done very commonly with the anti-roll bar and third spring systems. It’s not illegal. Imagine they were doing this with some type of steel bar connecting the front and rear; do you think that would be illegal? Of course not. Substitute ‘hydraulic line’ for ‘steel bar’. Feel better?

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