Suspension row likely to rumble on into 2017 F1 season despite successful Ferrari challenge
Ferrari Mercedes
Posted By: Editor   |  04 Jan 2017   |  12:25 pm GMT  |  229 comments

Ferrari has successfully challenged the legality of suspension technology that rival teams have been using, but the row is set to rumble on into the 2017 season.

F1 banned the FRIC (Front and Rear InterConnected) suspension system back in 2014, but some teams – notably Mercedes – have since come up with a workaround that optimises ride height and offers extra downforce in corners.

Working at its optimum a system that can drop a couple of millimetres of front wing ride height is probably worth around 2/10ths of a second a lap.

Ferrari’s chief designer Simone Resta wrote to the FIA’s F1 race director Charlie Whiting to explain that as a result the Italian team was considering its own novel suspension designs and asked for clarifications on specific areas. This could indicate that Ferrari was a few months behind their rivals like Mercedes and Red Bull in this technology, while medium size and small teams would not have the R&D resource or capability to compete in this area.

Whiting replied with his view that the concepts outlined in the letter would be illegal, which is a signal to the other teams not to appear in Melbourne with the system on their cars or they risk being sanctioned by the FIA Race Stewards.

Simone Resta

In his letter, which was distributed to all the teams, Resta wrote: “We are considering a family of suspension devices that we believe could offer a performance improvement through a response that is a more complex function of the load at the wheels than would be obtained through a simple combination of springs, dampers and inerters.

“In all cases they would be installed between some combination of the sprung part of the car and the two suspension rockers on a single axle, and achieve an effect similar to that of a FRIC system without requiring any connection between the front and rear of the car. All suspension devices in question feature a moveable spring seat and they use energy recovered from wheel loads and displacements to alter the position of the heave spring.

“Their contribution to the primary purpose of the sprung suspension – the attachment of the wheels to the car in a manner which isolates the sprung part from road disturbances – is small, while their effect on ride height and hence aerodynamic performance is much larger, to the extent that we believe it could justify the additional weight and design complexity.

F1 suspension

“We would therefore question the legality of these systems under Art. 3.15 and its interpretation in TD/002-11, discriminating between whether certain details are ‘wholly incidental to the main purpose of the suspension system’ or ‘have been contrived to directly affect the aerodynamic performance of the car’.

The two areas that Resta requested be clarified in detail were: “1) displacement in a direction opposed to the applied load over some or all of its travel, regardless of the source of the stored energy used to achieve this.

“2) a means by which some of the energy recovered from the forces and displacements at the wheel can be stored for release at a later time to extend a spring seat or other parts of the suspension assembly whose movement is not defined by the principally vertical suspension travel of the two wheels.”

Charlie Whiting

Whiting’s response to Ferrari’s letter explained that the two areas Resta asked for clarification on were likely to be in breach of F1’s technical regulations.

He wrote: “In our view any suspension system which was capable of altering the response of a cars’ suspension system in the way you describe in paragraphs 1) and 2) would be likely to contravene article 3.15 of the F1 technical regulations.”

It is understood that the teams that were running the innovative suspension layout in 2016 have presented their own queries to the FIA.

The row comes ahead of the 2017 season where F1 cars will feature new rules on chassis designs that will make the cars look more aggressive and are intended to lower laptimes.

Brawn GP

During the last major bodywork overall back in 2009, the debate over the double diffuser system on the Brawn GP, Williams and Toyota cars dominated the early part of the season. Protests were filed at the opening round, but the system was allowed.

Ross Brawn, whose eponymous team ran the double diffuser that was eventually ruled to be legal and went on to secure both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships in 2009, said late last year that the teams that had made an early start on their 2017 designs would be at an advantage as they, “can start to shape the arguments.”

With F1 set to become an aerodynamic Formula once again in 2017, additional gains from systems such as the one Ferrari has challenged are well worth having.

Disputes over innovative designs and further solutions in this area are likely to feature prominently in the coming weeks as the new cars are unveiled and testing gets underway.

What do you make of Ferrari’s move to clarify F1’s suspension rules? Does it signal a new debate over aero rules? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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Typical of Ferrari to complain about things that other teams thought of first. Isn’t F1 about about pushing technical development? Let the innovation stand. D/.


It irks me how so many F1 “fans” show so much hate towards Ferrari. They are always criticised for lacking innovation or being too conservative or moaning to the FIA etc. Designing something that is deliberately trying to defeat the regulations is not innovation. I applaud teams for trying to design good cars within the spirit of the regulations.


@ Greg M ..there is no such thing as the ‘spirit of the regulations’.


It seems to me that several people in this thread has either misunderstood or failed to appreciate the complexity of the issues at hand. For instance, the issue is not whether the hydraulic devices at issue “store energy”. As some have rightly stated, mechanical springs store energy too. Rather, the issue is whether these hydraulic devices violate Article 3.15 of the technical rules. In short, the issue is whether these devices should be considered “aerodynamic devices” or not. As with so many aspects of the technical rules, the answer is not so obvious.

Ferrari is asking the FIA to consider what is the “primary purpose” of these hydraulic devices. Is it primarily contributing to the sprung part of the car or to aerodynamic performance? Again the answer is not immediately obvious.

Similar to his determination of FRIC systems, White’s answer to Ferrari’s inquiry is that if these hydraulic devices’ primary purpose is aerodynamic performance rather than contribution to the sprung part of the car, then it’s illegal.

This ruling, in and of itself, doesn’t immediately rule out any team’s particular hydraulic device. Whether the primary purpose of a particular device is aero performance or not is a matter of interpretation. Teams will, of course, argue that their particular device is not designed primarily for aero performance and therefore should be deemed legal.

So far I haven’t seen anyone point of out the real significance of all of this, namely: Ferrari’s inquiry and Charlie’s response set the groundwork for determining what is the “primary purpose” of a particular hydraulic device, and hence whether a particular device does or does not violate 3.15. Ferrari’s wording of its question is insightful. It directs the FIA to consider, in particular, the “weight” and “complexity” of the hydraulic device. If the device is particularly heavy or complex, then it should be initially suspect of being designed primarily to affect aero performance rather than sprung performance, and more scrutiny should be given to the device. Otherwise, it’s difficult to justify the weight and costs associated with its complexity. As with all of the rules, all the teams will attempt to step right up to the line without crossing it. For instance, I’m sure both Mercedes and Red Bull are already arguing their case. But an explicit (even if somewhat subjective) line has now been drawn. The closer they get to that line (i.e., the heavier and more complex the hydraulic device), the more difficult it will be to make their case. That is the real significance of the ruling.


I think it’s FIA that is being vague here. It well gets to know the technical innovations of each car on the grid. It well knew the ‘innovations’ behind Mercedes and Red Bull. It let them run it until, well, one of the teams seeks for clarification. Then they shout ‘ILLEGAL’. Who is confused here? You tell me


Aero arguments will go on all season. Every team, especially the top 3 or 4 will be spying on each other every practice and race. Part of the entertainment no ??


Haven’t quite understood.
1 – If it was legal in 2016 why might it not be in 2017 ? Which specific rule has changed ?
2 – Why can’t there be a definitive ruling now instead of letting it go on and on ?
3 – Doesn’t this favour the big teams who began early (à la Brawn 2009) ? Haven’t they anough advantages already ?


This is the problem with f1, anything that is innovative or genuinely gives an advantage is banned.

What f1 needs is a simple set of car dimensions (max length and height) and then it’s down to the teams to build the fastest car using whatever engine, aero, materials etc etc they like. As long as it’s safe it’s ok.

The ‘sport (lol)’ is completely strangled these days with ridiculous rules and regulations and leaves no room for genuine innovation anymore, it’s no wonder people are walking en masse.


James, this is where F1 loses the public through obscurity in its over complexity and arbitrary rule making. When parts of F1 cars that do not manipulate airflow are deemed to be ‘aerodynamic’ parts, how can the general public be expected to understand why? If the governing body of the sport wants to avoid a war over suspension, why not DEFINE the suspension rules with clear parameters instead of deeming the specific apparatus under question within the suspension system to be an ‘aerodynamic part’ when clearly ALL of the suspension moves ALL of the car ALL of the time while the car is moving.


Don’t forget: Money, money, money. Lie many others, I would love to see F1 treams have lots of design freedom that leads to many cool, unique and innovative designs in all areas. But the costs involved at this point are so high that only 2 or 3 teams could afford to sustain their F1 commitments in that type of free design series. IOW, F1 couldn’t fill the grid.

So, while I agree that Ferrari’s “inquiry” is likely primarily motivated by a desire to stop RB and Merc from running these expensive and innovative designs and to avoid having to try and match them, in the bigger picture the result of banning them will lead to a more evenly matched field, which is a benefit to everyone, including fans.


I think it’s time that the rules were written in a foreign language, on a rotational basis. The reason I say this is because interpreting the rules has become a matter of word-bending, and on some occasions this transpires as rule bending. My 1st language is English, but even for those who have learnt it fluently, there are nuances that simply don’t translate. The same would be for us English reading the rules in French, Italian…….Japanese!! Imagine that!
This is the main reason having an English engineer on board in many teams, to interpret the rules. Somewhat unfair.


If the suspension systems in the Mercedes and Red Bull were illegal during 2016, shouldn’t the FIA have found out before the end of the championship? This is odd.


for some reason people seem to have a problem seeing closer run races from front to back.
Maybe they prefer to complain about how horribly dull it all is and are worried this little thrill will be taken away.


Yea, right. Why do i have a feeling Ferrari new Whiting’ answer even before they started writing that letter. If you can’t beat them on track, try to beat them off track. Ferrari did the same few years ago by sending letter to FIA in relation to homologation date, and the FIA suddenly changed the rule. Well, the “interpretation” of the rule.
This teams need better lawyers, but mainly better management. And by better I mean someone with the guts. With the guts to bring this dispute at FIA IT, and I’m 100% sure FIA would lose. They use that article about “movable aero devices” as they like. Totaly arbitrary. And this needs to stop.


I wonder how much of this is Ferrari trying to peg back Red Bull so they can compete with them.

Pity they can’t find an engine PU loophole to pull back Merc towards both Red Bull and themselves, to avoid the boring “turn up the engine and blitz everyone to the front row” scenarios week inweek out, year in year out…

It is quite easy being Charlie though. Just need to say “that’s a grey area it may or may not be illegal” 😉


Here we go again.
Innovation gets a knock from Team Catch-Up and the Suits.
‘. . . likely to be in breach . . . ‘
Is subjective enough to keep the subject in spin and maintain F1’s tenous media presence during the off-season.


I think all this stuff should be banned. The smaller teams would be able to compete better and it would lower costs. Charlie should be going to every factory NOW and looking at all aspects of the car. Either give them the ‘all clear’ or tell them to change it. I don’t want to see all the [Mod] fighting and protesting at the beginning of the season.


Sounds like there is more competition in the stewards office than on the track these days.


It is like everyone against Ferrari they have checked with FIA weather it is allowed or not. They have gone forward for a suspension and wanted to check if it is valid or not before implementing it, if that was invalid than they want others to stop taking advantage of such tricks what is wrong in it. Formula 1 is a business and every one wanted to win do not forget everyone is for himself here.


Why the hell ask if its ok? Merc didnt and got away with it for a year. JUST CHEAT, they did in the old days and it was more exciting!


The politics of this is more interesting than the technology. This letter does not read like someone looking for a design concept to be approved – particularly when we are less than a month away from cars being unveiled. This is a question contrived solely to get the answer that the system is illegal – and therefore scuppering any other teams considering a similar concept. If there was any doubt about this, why distribute the question to all other teams rather than keep a potentially advantageous idea to themselves?


It seems half the battle to get these grey-area devices deemed legal is in how you phrase your questions to the FIA.

If you tell the FIA you’re planning to build something that you think may break rule X they’ll just say you’re right. Don’t build it.

If you don’t ask the FIA anything, build it, mask it as something else to hide it from race inspectors, and defend it in court if challenged by a competitor who doesn’t fully grasp how your particular thingamajig works is a lot easier (and a lot more profitable) in my view.

NASCAR is a lot straight forward, American-style. “We don’t like the look of that thing over- whatever you call it- there because we didn’t understand a word you said. Yank it out right now, or go home.”


@Carlos Marques re: NASCAR – Just wondering, are they still running about 40 years behind current road car design? New technology would be wasted on their hammer and wrench ‘engineers’.


If Ferrari spent half as much time and money on their design team as the did on their legal team then they would be far more competitive. It is quite a compelling narrative to see the two historical titans of F1, Ferrari and McLaren, in turmoil and lon term terminal decline as the modern superpowers of Mercedes and Red Bull now dominate what the sport.


Why now and not last season when Mercedes and Red Bull already ran with this system.

Seems to me that they cannot get it working and therefore want it banned, just like with the active suspension in the 90s.


Obviously Ferrari have failed to reproduce this tech to good advantage otherwise they wouldn’t have gone to Charlie. What puzzles me is the timing. Surely it would be better to get clarification after testing, then Mercedes / Red Bull would be even more on the back foot when they arrive at the first race with a new legal suspension system that hasn’t been tested?


F1 Technical Regs for dummies.

Use this type of PU.
Use these tyres.
Everything else is up-to you.

And just to be clear,money will not necessarily win the day. The freedom of ideas and ingenuity will.


The cars in F1 have to confirm to a Formula, as does every other type of motor racing, whatever you and others might believe. The FIA cannot allow complete freedom in design, as the cars would soon be too fast for the circuits. That’s why so many circuits have had to install chicanes.

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