Ferrari letter to FIA prompts scrutiny of FRIC, suspension tricks

As teams feverishly prepare their 2017 cars for the new season, there seems to be a technical issue concerning the suspension design and the technical regulations. According to a piece at AUTOSPORT, Ferrari have queried the FIA over their planned suspension system that would replicate the FRIC (front and rear interconnected) system used by Mercedes in 2016 to much success.

Ferrari’s query has now shed new light or scrutiny on the types of suspension trickery deployed by Mercedes as well as Red Bull as they sought clarification for their own trick suspension. Ferrari’s Simone Resta said:

“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,” wrote Resta.

“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.

“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’.”

Whether Ferrari are working on the system or not isn’t the real meat of this inquiry as they themselves question the types of systems used in 2016 as well as their own desire for a new system saying displaying concern over two main areas:

“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.

“Or

“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.”

The FIA’s Charlie Whiting responded saying these scenarios would, in their opinion, contravene the regulations.

“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,”

The interesting part of this issue for me is the very late inquiry regarding the suspension when these components most likely would have been designed and baked in to the chassis concept many months ago. With just over two months to go to the new season, it is late in the day to change up an entire chassis design and perhaps—just perhaps—Ferrari know this and that’s why they’ve chosen to seek clarification while calling out their rivals trick suspension characteristics.

With the FIA on record over its view on suspension features and the regulations, it has prompted more discussion between the teams and the FIA as Mercedes or Red Bull would want to ensure they are compliant with their suspension design. Falling short of the regulations could place a serious performance deficit on either team should they be forced to re-design their chassis just a few weeks before the first winter test.

The 2017 season will bring a host of new chassis changes and it is intended to bring a balance back to Formula 1 between power and chassis reliance for good racing. A trick suspension would be very integral to the 2017 chassis design for any team but without it, it could mean a less competitive chassis in the realm of a new era of regulations and that’s very difficult to overcome.

Hat Tip: Autosport