That perfect ride: The must-have technical device of 2013
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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I thought this was what active or reactive suspension did in years gone by, and it was banned


It is what Active Ride did years ago but the difference here is in the words Active and Passive.


Those were active. Reactive still meant that there was a computerized component, I believe (based on sensors which told the car where it was on the track).


As far as I was aware Jon, reactive suspension worked by measuring the cars ride then adjusting. It wasn't based on where the car was on track. One of the issues with reactive suspension was that it was slow to react because of this, hence active suspension (which pre-set the car before a corner) was developed.

So I question what the difference is between reactive suspension and the systems used by Mercedes and Lotus.

I'd be staggered if there is no computer control in the hydraulic system for this. Even then you have to consider things like the Renault mass damper were banned mid season.


Lotus' reactive suspension and Renault's Mass dampers were not "rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car (rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom)" and did not "remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car."

Mercs system is, because it's basically tubes, valves and pressure tanks.


i guess they are going to say that there is no computer/ECU ...

but i agree ,... thought this sort of stuff was banned .. like that passive balance thingy that renault had once.


Marcus in Canada

active suspension was banned, as James says above: these systems are passive


Active suspension altered the cars height based on its location on the track and from information beamed to the car from the pits. This new system reacts to the forces being excerted on the car/suspension and not from data given to it externally. Telemetry is now one way only and data can no longer be beamed to the car.


The key difference is this newer method is completed passive and requires not clever ECU type controls to make it work, so it legal under the current rules.


Ditto that. Can someone clarify how this isn't the same as reactive suspension that was banned...

Heck you could argue active suspension was passive because "it’s not something the driver actively controls" couldn't you?

Sounds like this suspension tech needs a pre China ban placing on it a bit like some of the braking technology and holes in floors were banned mid-season.


See this for an explanation how the left and right on the rear are linked on the Merc:

Mind the last paragraph that foresees linking the front and the rear suspension in roughly the same manner.


If you are referring to the thing Lotus had, it was banned because it was triggered by brake torque and brakes are operated by driver...


That wasn't the reason it was banned. It was banned because it changed the suspension geometry when the car was in movement. And some other stuff too...


Ok, that would explain it. I was wondering about that one too.


FRIC is legal because, unlike the active suspension on say the Wiliiams in the early '90s, it isn't controlled by the car's electronics, but the laws of physics cause it to work as the car moves (hence "passive").


Aha! Hydrolastic suspension! They must have achieved what the great might of British Leyland failed to perfect in the Maxi and 1800.

Anthony Andrews

Not quite, more like the system Citroen used on the 2CV amongst others. There, pressurised, fluid filled rubber spheres were interlinked.

Richard Jackson - New Zealand

Ha, I was hoping someone would bring this up. Definitely reads like hydrospastic suspension to me too! 😉


It was the 'active' bit that was banned. This is a passive system.


The active suspension that was banned relied on electronics. This type of suspension is no different to regular passive suspension only that the 4 corners are linked, and through that link and clever engineering they can gain a greater form of intelligence as to how they operate. They are still nowhere near the efficiency of the old computerised active suspensions.


But there was a passive ride height system on the Lotus a couple of years back, in pre-season testing, that was banned.


It's not just electronics that make it active, it's the energy input with pumps. A mechanical system operated by driver via levers would be active and illegal also.


Hydraulic self levelling passive suspension. As used on the Austin Allegro 1973–'83. Nothing new, is there? Note how an active system like Citroën's would be illegal. Apparently British Leyland fitted tubes that were too small to work, so the system never worked properly. My dearly loved rusty old Allegro kept slowly losing pressure and leaning to the left, and had to be raised up again every few months by a glorified bike pump! It makes me wonder if Mercedes and Lotus have also adopted the infamous Allegro square steering wheel! 😉


i also do not understand the legality of this system,

since last season, the rules around flexible front wings have been restricted further, a flexible front wing is clearly passive

surely a flexible front wing is less of a movable aerodynamic device than some clever passive suspension device changing rideheight



If this system is illegal then we have to also ban things like sway bars that transfer load from one wheel to the other, as well as any type of interconnecting link like third springs, etc. Get a grip.


The wings fall under the "flexible aerodynamic devises" rule. Theres nothing flexing or being controlled by the driver in the FRIC system. If it were ilegal it would have been banned by now.


A wing is an aerodynamic device.

If it moves, it's a flexible aerodynamic device.

A braking system is a braking device. The devices being talked about reduce roll under braking by transferring hydraulic fluid pressure from rear to front, and back again.

The FRIC system acts to prevent the ride height from changing under braking forces. As such, it's almost the direct opposite of a movable aerodynamic device.


But these are different rules. The rules governing the front wing have nothing to do with being active or passive - they simply are not allowed to flew any more than x tolerance regardless of how the flex is managed or 'controlled'.


This systems is not active, it's passive.

Notice how even this year's must have device is linked to the bloody tyres just like everything else in F1 at the moment!

Pirelli said that soft and medium tyres for this race is: "the best choice for the comparatively high degradation expected as a result of the demanding track layout, which leads to close racing."

Pirelli, take your pathetic tissue-paper tyres elsewhere and stop manipulating and therefore ruining my sport! I'm thinking of starting a Facebook page "Why Pirelli's new Parmazan Tyres - after a single trip to the shops there'll be flakes of them all over the damn place!"

(P.S beofre you all remind me for the 100th time that F1 ASKED for these tyres, I KNOW, but Pirelli actually made them whereas all the other manufacturers had the good sense to say no).


I'm with Wayne on this one (makes a change!) even Button came out and said today that drivers will be driving to a time specified by the team. By that he means he is pacing the car not racing.

Agree Bridgestones lasted too long, as Vettel proved at Monza but surely there is a compromise between the two extremes we have seen in recent years.


Hi Wayne,

I'm a bit late here, but this system would be worthwhile with any tyre type if the car has any form of aerodynamic downforce. That we are several years into a set of broad rules since 2009 makes this an avenue more worthwhile to pursue.

One argument in your favour with the tyres is that it increases the advantage for lighter drivers. Lighter drivers benefit from a lower centre of gravity, which due to effects of weight transfer and downforce, allows lighter drivers to corner slightly faster. A bigger driver, if also stronger, would be able to apply greater brake pressures at the start of braking zones, allowing them to brake later. With these tyres the heavier drivers lose this advantage in the race, but not in qualifying.

I did some calculations, with quite a few asssumptions and concluded that for a corner that Vettel could take at 180 km/h, Webber could only do 179.7 km/h due to his car's higher CoG.

So yes Hamilton should be faster than Button because he is lighter, and Pirelli fully endorses this.




At least somebody made them. Magnesium has even lower grip and poor wear characteristics.

tom in adelaide

I hereby sentence you to 700 hours of Bridgestone race footage viewing.

If you survive, you'll be welcomed back.


May I opt for the GoodYears they used in the 90s? These tyres were great. You had everything from 1 to 3 stops, where the 3-stopper may well have been as fast as the 1-stopper. Drivers could trash the car around, if they needed, and they could compensate with some cool laps. They had less marbles on the track, so they could still overtake without DRS and as a plus, if they took the tires too far, they could still fall off the cliff. The tires degraded too, but they didn't disintegrate during the course of one hot lap.



We already all did the 700 hours. I wear that Ferrari Schumi hat proudly as proof.

Did it turn us tought or into complainers?


Weird how people forget that with Bridgestone, a faster car could be stuck behind a slower car for an entire stint. Now the aero regs and pirelli tires have fixed that.


What would be nice though, would be tires that you could push 100% on for a number of laps, but that then would "fall off a cliff". And that wouldn't last much longer if you drove them at 90% in the same stint.

F1 fans are a fickle bunch, but with good intentions. We don't want the tires to actually limit racing, or not to some extreme level. Right now, the Pirelli's in my opinion are doing exactly that.


LOL! At least the drivers were using their talent for speed though!


I wonder if there there exists a "rubber hardener" which can be applied to the surface of the tires to make them last?

Let's say you take some chemical hardener and apply it with a roller to the surface that will make contact with the road to "harden" a layer of the tires to squeeze 2 or 3 more laps out of it.


If so, Legal?

Wayne, I understand your stress. The more I break down this Tire issue the more I really think Pirelli is between a rock and a hard place here. They will never please everyone. Every product has a defined life cycle and engineered failure point. In case of these tires it's just a matter of defining "life" in a 2 hour race window. Therefore, even a 3 stop means 4 sets of tires and 30 minutes or so out of each. In human "life" that would be 20 years for each set of tires.


Well, they do do something sorta like this, with scrubbed tires, by putting them through a heat cycle.


Even if it were possible, pretty sure that wouldn't be legal. While I don't recall everything regarding the tyre regulations, I do remember that there are specific clauses regarding things like only using air to fill the tyres (i.e. not nitrogen or whatever else). I don't imagine anyone would get away with applying a coat of whatever to the tyres.


This world of regulations is so confusing... "it is allowed as it is passive" yet when the Fduct was around that was only allowed as it was active, i.e. the driver moved his hand or knee to cover a hole. So some things have to be driver controlled other things not.. crazy!!!


The F-duct exploited the loophole whereby the driver cannot be classified as a moveable aerodynamic device. Although the F-duct was very much an active device, the only bit of it that moved was the part of the driver that covered the hole.

I think in the end they tidied up the regulations to define active devices as something the driver has direct control over.

Andrew Woodruff

That is a good point about the F-duct.

With the suspension, though, in the "active" days of '92 and '93 it wasn't the drivers that controlled suspension movements, it was a computer in the pitlane.


They changed the regs.


The tyres are fine, if you have correctly designed your car to use them, and have a driver who understands this.

Ask Kimi!

All revved-up up

How about reducing the loss of time on pitstops. This should be simple. Just need to build a pit lane exit that cuts across the middle of the track and exits half way round the circuit.

I'm also with Bernie for the idea that all races should be a half wet race. Just turn on the sprinklers. Any F1 driver can drive fast in the dry, but it's the wet that sets the Sennas apart from the rest.

So far we've had no tyre issues in the wet and usually exciting racing. Drivers may go all out from the start!!


Yeah I for one am totally up for going back to races that ran like glorified parades on bullet proof Bridgestones! The harder you make it for the drivers the better the racing... bring back manual gearboxes as well! 😉


Which obviously is much better than drivers unable to follow a car and afraid to make a passing move due to loosing aero like they where for a decade pre Pirelli

I agree it isn't perfect, but better this than a glorified F3 style procession.


You're right let's stick with no actual racing at all. Come to think of it I prefer it now that it's not actually a sport but rather an engineered circus where the drivers drive 8 tenths slower than they are capable for 90% of the race. I just love watching cars being helplessly passed at the end of the race because the garbage tyres can't do more than ten laps. Tyres should not be bullet proof but they should allow drivers to show their speed outside of qualy. We now watch 2 hours of drivers trundling around terrified that the tyres are going to go off and swapping places based on tyres wear rather than skill at driving fast - what's to worry about?


Spot on. The tyre wars were awful. Anyone who watched the sham at Indy will be loving this.


So - Will we see other teams raiding the Austin-Rover parts bins for Hydrolastic Suspension components from the 1962 Austin/Morris 1100...

matthew cheshire

Don't laugh, back then John Cooper designed an F1 car using Austin Hydro suspension. But you have to be suspicious of suspension technology that works better when completely binned and replaced with solid lumps of rubber.


Yeah they ran at Indy in the first days of the rear engine cars.

Cooper was quite the innovator. Him and Chapman.


Good one!


Thanks James, any idea when Lotus and Mercedes first introduced the system, Im guessing Lotus did theirs early last year lt given its consistently good tyre wear and handling characteristics.?

Hope we see the Lotus passive DRS in action soon. It had been some time in the making and if the FRIC system is now quite advanced then logically it would be sooner rather than later. This beckons the next question;- how far away are we before we see Mercedes with their own new passive DRS system ?


Mercedes tested their own passive DRS, they just aren't running yet.


Could one say it's sort of a passive, non-electronic active-suspension? In the sense that the goals are the same?


Close but not quite the same, I guess. The 1990s Lotus and Williams active suspensions did rise the car on the straights, depending on the wind speeds and different sensors, as the air was pushing the car down, so the ride height remained the same. Setup of an F1 car before was a compromise: When in standstill the car must have the minimum ride height. When at speed the car may not bottom out on the straight. So they're using progressive springs that go harder the deeper they're pushed to have the least movement possible. Still that means that every bump will be quite harsh, still that means when braking the downforce will go away and the car's front will go down and the car's back will lift - that will transfer the aerodynamic balance. Active suspension could level all that out, perfectly.

The FRICS may eliminate yaw and roll, but it will be rather limited in adjusting the overall ride height, I suppose.


Maybe its better to see the new suspension in the same way we see springs and shock absorbers, which similarly, are passive devices for maintaining ride height.


Or a front-rear roll bar arrangement only with hydraulics instead of torsion bars.


Interesting & must say extremely innovative technology this "FRIC" system is. I love the name as well. A few questions James,

1: Which team has invented the system? Or is it outsourced by the F1 teams?

2: If the "FRIC" system is supposed to help the tyres work better then shouldn't Mercedes be better than Red Bull & Ferrari in tyre management during the race? They should have been much closer to Lotus in Melbourne at least. And also shouldn't Lotus be as good as Mercedes in qualifying?

3: Did all the teams test this new system in preseason testing? If so, then why isn't every team using it?


You're assuming that the the only defference in all the cars that you mentioned is the FRIC system. Theres other areas in which these cars lack performance in comparison to, for example, RB.


Hi James, I heard on Friday's Sky Sports show that Marussia were bringing a new suspension system to China. Is this along the same lines as the FRIC system?

Seán Craddock

Personally I would be surprised if Marussia would have enough funding to develop a system like this. We've seen innovative ideas been banned after a year so they're budget would be better spent on simpler parts

Tornillo Amarillo

Excellent article.

A question, why Red Bull is not mentioned as a team with this secret device? Do you see a difference in the ride, pitch or roll angle between Lotus/Mercedes and Red Bull?


RB were the complaining about changing the tires but Pirelli said no changes as its not the whole paddock wanting a change. Finally or maybe Red Bull will not be the top team as races go by, we shall see.


Don't read too much into public statements. When RB made their complaints, RB knew full well that they would never get the 2012 spec tyres from Pirelli (Pirelli does not spend a ton of money for sponsorship only to admit failure). They may be hoping for a more conservative choice of tyres for some races later in the season, but seeing how some teams have been able to manage the tyres better, they have certainly been working on a "plan b" as well.


We think they're working on it. Let's keep an eye out in China.

tom in adelaide

Let's hope not!


Articles like this are the reason why this is the best F1 website around. Thank you James & the team.

Are other teams already developing their own versions of this system? How long does it take to develop and implement it?


Yes, we think so. It takes a while, clearly. Keep an ear out for talk of teams moving onto it


Thanks James and Mark, love the tech articals you guys have been producing. I think I get how it works but if you get any more definitive info please share it. Thanks again.


AAAaah, Thanks James Just the sort of "dug out of the garage" article which makes this blog great


If only RBR had this, people would be screaming bloody murder from the rooftops.


If it was RB it'd be an illegal system dressed up to look legal and they'd be allowed a couple of races before quietly being asked to remove it 😉


100% Correct, but since it's Lotus & Mercedes people are going to be saying what an interesting championship it's going to be 🙂

tom in adelaide

Believe it or not, a large majority of fans out there are non-biased. I don't want Red Bull to have this simpy because it levels the field a little. Clearly they have massive advantages in the aero department.

So i would say - don't be so quick to assume people are anti Red Bull. So of us are just anti boring.


Well said sir, a few of us are merely RACING fans!

I'd be interested to see how the stats stack up on the subject of tyre deg. Is it mostly us non-biased F1 racing fans frustrated by the direction the sport has gone with the tyres?


Believe me, it's not the fans I'm worried about.

I just recall when off-throttle exhausts were legal, then weren't, then were again, then weren't again. Hopefully the people who decide these things have learnt their lesson, so if they do decide to make this system illegal at some point hopefully it will only be implemented in the 2014 rules and without messing around with the 2013 rules mid-season.

One thing did occur to me though regarding the two systems:

This FRIC system is legal because it's passive - it's not driver controlled, it just reacts to the movement of the car.

So what do you call a system that is enabled 100% of the time with no driver or car input whatsoever?

I'm not saying off-throttle diffusers should still be legal, but I do detect inconsistency.


Even this leads back to the tyres...


It's ALL about the tyres now!

As a few posters have mentioned already - Do we really want to watch drivers driving at 8/10ths until the teams "bring the cars home" for the last 25% of the race?

The drivers aren't enjoying it, the "real" F1 fans aren't enjoying it and there's millions being thrown at these hot fixes to enable the driver to drive the car as it was designed in the first place. When this current crop of o-so-important "casual viewers" get bored of the WWE style manipulation creeping into the sport, what to do next? Go back to the top drivers in the world pushing the limits of automotive engineering and hope we're all still here...? Lets hope someone else doesn't come along with a more attractive formula in the mean time. Nothing last forever Bernie, and CVC know it!

There will come a day soon when even Ferrari will wish the teams had got together and bought into the business as Joe Saward had mused before things went all Hollywood.


Andrew, EVERYTHING leads back to the tires. They are the only connection between the car and the road.


Really? Thanks.

Seán Craddock

Two questions James (it's been a while since I've commented here unfortunately)

Is FRIC trying to achieve similar results to what the Renault active suspension did in 2006 or Williams in 1992?

Also, Mark mentioned how much a car changes in a corner; pitching under braking, and roll on turn in and exit. Do teams design there cars to have more downforce during these transitions? Downforce is needed in the corners but not so much on a straight, so designing a car to have downforce when it's completely level and straight doesn't seem right (obviously it's still important to design for the drag)

Stephen Taylor

the renault thing was to do with dampers not suspension.


...... and what do you suppose the mass dampers role was, if not to enable a variable control of acceleration resistance within the suspension system? JF


Do red bull have this system perfected yet? Because if not and they're still winning races it's going to be a tad depressing when Newey sorts out the integrated suspension 😉


@AuraF1 Red Bull we not "nearly unbeatable"when they got on top of the car last season. Vettel won the 4 races between Singapore and India, but Webber wasn't that good, not to mention Lewis would have won Singapore were it not for his gearbox. If I remember correctly, it was McLaren who had the fastest race car in the last 3 races last sason.

Like I said Red Bull are very good, but not unbeatable and they too can be copied. Rather give credit to Mercedes and Lotus for what they have done with this FRIC system. If and when Red Bull decide to copy it, the other teams will also be busy developing new things for their own cars too.


Two or more can play that game though me thinks. I'm sure Red Bull have a few things on their car that the other teams are also looking at and in any event there is no guarantee Red Bull will "perfect" this system. No team is a sure-bet to win the development race. Red Bull are very good but they are not unbeatable and its not as if they blew everybody away last season.



Yeah, Adrian is a fish out of water with advanced Hydraulics. Who do you think designed the FW14? 🙂


No but when they finally got on top of the car it was nearly unbeatable. And last year red bull started off on the back foot - this year they're winning already - my point is if they are winning without this system imagine how dominant they will be early on. And if vettel can build up a cushion of points now it won't matter if the others catch up. I suppose we'll have to see the next couple of races...


You are right Kidza, its taken Merc two years to perfect it. So its not something that Red Bull or any other team will be able to accomplish in a few weeks. Also, Adrian Newey is an aerodynamicist who might be like a fish out of water with advanced hydrualics.


Sorry James, this is not related to this story, but guys... must see this. HUNT/LAUDA trailer is here...

Looks promising, doesn't it?


That does look pretty amazing! Good lookalikes too.


Has Ron Howard made the first good F1 movie since Grand Prix in 1966?

I could do with something to erase the memory of the one that Sylvester Stallone pooped out.

And before I get flamed, yes I know 'Senna' was good, but that is a documentary, not an actor portrayed movie.

VP of Common Sense

The Stallone movie Driven was about Indy Cars but yes, this is probably the best US produced F1 movie since Grand Prix.


James, will the weight of hydraulic FRIC affect a lap time? Also, the system may be relatively light but over 300km of race distance, may the car need additonal 2 or 3 kilos of fuel?


The cars run with ballast to bring them up to minimum weight; the only thing some extra suspension parts would do is raise the center of gravity a bit. So no, they will not need extra fuel.


So is this really legal then? Because it sounds like its an aerodynamic tool really. Just as many other passive systems which has been banned thru out the years....because they improved ride height and thus improved the aerodynamics.

Renault mass damper?

Or am I missing something?

Like the innovation though 😀


Exactly what I wondered, too.


James: I'm wondering what's causing the sudden low fuel issues as reported by Mercedes and now hearing about Webber in Malaysia. Does that have anything to do with tires or other technical issues?


No, it's to do with not being sure exactly how much fuel you will use due to changeable conditions - you use less fuel when it's wet..


is this not what Harvey Postlethwaite tried on the Tyrell back in the mid 90's?


And/or MG touted on it's 1100's in the 60's as their "Liquid Suspension" ?


It was BMC (British Motor Corporation) suspension "Hydrolastic" and invented by Alex Moulton used on Mini's 1100's, 1300's, 1800's and 2200's and was a very high pressure system.

Paul m


Yes I can understand how this works. I expect it also works across the car as well as front to rear, and is a sort of fluid equalisation system. That being the case the effect of it will be to reduce the amount of body movement relative to actual wheel movement which is exactly what F1 cars need in keeping body movements to a minimum possible.


The FRIC system seems to be what has allowed Merc to run a very aerodynamically simple car at the front of the field.

Its a system whose potential is worth watching out for, especially when Merc begins to bolt on tuned aero parts like the other teams.

F1 is really interesting for the way its tech people can think along divergent lines to hit the same target. Who knows what else there is aside from the FRIC?


As mentioned by a previous poster, this is active ride and was banned...


Nope. There are no electronically active components involved, so it's passive.


From the article it sounds more like the effect is as if there's an anti-roll bar between front and rear, but rather than it being all-metal, it's hydraulic. That would still count as passive I guess.


Great insight. Would be interesting to know if this requires calibration at every race track. I does appear that a lot of innovations are now focusing on keeping the tyres working throughout a race as oppposed to adding pure performance.



is this not exactly like Williams FW14 ? ... which was so good, they had to ban it and change the rules.


No, that was active, computer controlled

The whole point, as the article says, is that it is a passive system, not a driver controlled aero device etc


I understand how it's different from the Williams solution, but I'm having difficulty understanding how it's different from the brake-activated ride-height adjustment that was deemed verboten for 2012.



I think the braking connected system is considered too 'perfect' a connection. I also suspect it would be hard to police variations of this approach that did far more than simply maintain the ride height at the front through the entire process of brake application and removal. A passive system would provide initial ride height equalisation, but could have reverse effects where the inertia changes. Sort of like the sloshing of, say, a box of water tipped up at one end suddenly - there's a reverberation of the water that sloshes back. The First article is confusing, as the opening statement doesn't actually gel with the statement of Mark Gillan - a contributor to this site - James, can you get Mark to explain why the 1st article suggest ride height maintenance (assumedly at a set absolute floor height) and Mark's comment about "getting the ride height lower" presumably than this minimal ride height?


The systems which fell foul of the rule makers used movement of the brake calipers (which are directly actuated by the driver) to provide secondary actuation of the suspension.

The FRIC system uses hydraulics to react to the weight transfer of the car. It isn't linked to the braking system, and isn't directly actuated by the driver.


They need to legalise active suspension again. A real area where technology could be transferred to a mainstream purpose and in no way is it a driver aid any more than variable engine maps/differential settings. It's this type of thing I find frustrating about the formula - teams invest in dodging the rules instead of free thinking. I do like how the 'emphasis' of F1 is moving away from pure aero mind 🙂

All revved-up up

I agree. It's stupid that we have the technology but yet have to watch cars lean away from the corner rather than into a corner.

Motorcycles, bicycles, humans, animals, planes, helicopters, the latest maglev trains all lean into a corner.

Cars just seem so terribly "behind the times" and inefficient.


Absolutely correct. Very few technologies in F1 can make a major impact in society. I'd argue that F1-derived traction control systems have made an enormous contribution to car safety today and are saving lives on the road every day..


What is to say that a tyre won't delaminate, the throttle won't stick open, or a brake disc won't fail. Computer systems are extremely reliable these days and every single modern widebody jetliner is computer controlled/fly-by-wire so your argument doesn't hold water. As for stability systems in road cars, they are road car unique. After all, you want an F1 car to slide to achieve maximum turn in.


Where do you think stability controls come from in stree cars?


no - if active suspension fails, the driver has no chance (look at the berger incident in imola)

a passive system never gets an computererror and resets suspentionhight




is this "only" -Front and Rear, or could it be left and right -Interconnected too? and the time for other top teams needed to develop and introduce that device is interesting as well/


left and rigth is already now connected through the antirollbars - maybe they now changed the mechanical part of the rollbars also to fluids (or whatever system they use to connect front and rear)

there was an article about mercedes trying such a system over a year ago - try to find the article



ok - it was only linked rear suspension




Google Mercedes and mercury suspension; you should get articles from 2+ years back.


if multi external links are allowed

linked suspension speculations in the f1technical forum, to get an idea how it could work.


else, moderator/james please delete



Yes, there is the scope for left/right, I'm told


James - Just to clarify, referencing your text

"This generation of F1 cars is very sensitive to roll, so anything that can minimise the roll angle is definitely a big positive."

Roll is left to right motion, while pitch is fore-aft. I think to make significant changes to roll angle in the corners, you would need left to right hydraulic linking, not fore-aft? Are the systems already linked four ways, did you mix up your terminology in the article, or am I just missing something?

Also, the McLaren cars looked like bouncing balls under braking in Australia. Is this an indication that they have a FRIC system, but hadn't yet got it stabilised?

Finally, great article. The tech stuff is what makes F1 so interesting.



Having the springs set to STIFF would have the same effect...


McLaren doesn't have a FRIC system.

What McLaren is suffering is called purpoising. Its usually the result of wrong suspension setup or suspension components that are not in synch with the cars aero.


Hi James,

Interesting article. I read about this system in some German sites and it was hard to understand with Google translate messing up all the grammar.

Is it confirmed that lotus are also running the FRIC ? or is it speculation?

I also read rumors that Aldo Costa was behind the design of this system. A loss for Ferrari, considering they fired him in favor of Pat Fry.


Great article!

What is the comparative between this system (apparently legal) , and the one that Lotus came with between 2011 and 2012, that was banned?

That system, if I recall correctly, was banned because it did just as is described in the article, makes the car more aerodynamically effective under typical stressors (was braking in the beta 2011-2012 Lotus), THEREFORE affecting the cars aerodynamics, THEREFORE a 'movable aerodynamic device (oh, other than the 'legal' DRS), and THEREFORE... (as in Monty Python and the Holy Grail), a witch; I most earnestly mean, 'illegal in Formula One'.

Isn't that just what the FRIC is going on here?

Were the rules changed to clarify this effect/technology/conceptual design?

Please advise, Mark/James?


That system was banned because it was triggered by brake torque and THEREFORE was driver activated.


That system was mechanical, this one is purely hydrolics


I don't see how this is any different than Renault's banned J-damper. It wasn't driver controlled either, but it was ruled to be an "active" suspension system.


J-dampers are banned? Renault had a tuned mass damper, which is a different thing for same purpose.


Simple - the Renault J-damper was enabling them to beat Ferrari, therefore it was banned by the FIA.


so this FRIC'in thing will be banned too...?


same comment above..I dont get the difference either really?...


Thats because the FiA banned it for the wrong reasons. The Tuned Mass Damper shouldve been banned for being moveable ballast, not moveable aero. The aero effect is not much different to the Inerter dampers McLaren pioneered, but they were targeting the tyre vibrations.


Nah, the J-damper was banned for strictly political reasons.


As far as I have understood McLaren's J-damper (now known as "inerter") was never banned and all teams are now using sme kind of interter. Renault/Lotus pioneered a fluid inerter though.


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?


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?


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


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


They have been running it since Korea 2010 Nihon.

If James does some digging he will confirm this.


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?


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 🙂


No, because it is passive


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?


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


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 🙂


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.


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


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.

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.


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


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.


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


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



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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


Do you have any references for this Simon? Googling for 'red bull "p spring"' returns nothing relevant.


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.


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 @ Would love insights


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?


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.


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


Ah. In that case I have no idea 🙂

Schnell! schnell!


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.


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.


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.


Is this similar to the Kinetic Suspension Technology?

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


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.



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?


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


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...


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.



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.


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....


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


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.


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


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."


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?


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 🙂


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.



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?


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

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