FIA bans ride height systems

2012-01-23 08:18

LONDON, England - Formula 1's governing body has moved to ban, before the start of pre-season testing, controversial new reactive suspension systems on which several teams are working.

Williams chief operations engineer Mark Gillan said the International Automobile Federation (FIA) had declared the systems to be illegal for the 2012 season which will open in Australia in March.

Gillan said: "The FIA has just banned that particular type of system."


Matteo Bonciani, the FIA's head of F1 communications, confirmed to Reuters that technical head Charlie Whiting had written to all the teams on Friday clarifying the situation. He said the FIA had received a number of technical enquiries from teams about the legality of systems that could alter the configuration of a car's suspension in response to changes in brake torque.

Lotus, previously Renault, first tried out a system at a young-driver test in Abu Dhabi in November 2012 but has not commented on its significance for the car to be unveiled in March 2012 ahead of testing in Spain. Several others, including Williams and Ferrari, were also believed to be looking into similar devices while awaiting an FIA ruling on their legality.

The issue had threatened to become the first big technical controversy of a year that will have an unprecedented six World champions, including Finland's Kimi Raikkonen returning with Lotus, on the grid.

Article 3.15 of the 2012 technical regulations, published in january 2012, states: "Any car system, device or procedure which uses driver movement as a means of altering the aerodynamic characteristics of the car is prohibited."

The Lotus system which first put the issue in the public eye reportedly reacted to brake torque and formed part of the suspension.

Gillan said: "We've been investigating that type of system for a while. It obviously affects the aerodynamic platform of the car. Anything that lowers the ride height, particularly at the front, benefits aerodynamics."


Bonciani said systems shown to the FIA for approval relied on changes to the length of a suspension member and appeared to have a primary, if not sole, purpose of affecting aerodynamic performance.

Some systems designed to allow additional movement of the brake calliper for aerodynamic purposes were also illegal.

The governing body ruled that, in its opinion, the systems contravened article 3.15 and possibly articles 10.2.1 and 10.2.3. The latter states that "no adjustment may be made to the suspension system while the car is in motion".