Ride Height: FIA act to outlaw any adjustment after Qualifying

After two races of inter team accusations, the FIA have moved to outlaw any suspension system that aims to adjust ride height in between qualifying and the race.  According to Autosport, the FIA have confirmed “Any system device or procedure, the purpose and/or effect of which is to change the set-up of the suspension, while the car is under Parc Fermé conditions will be deemed to contravene art 34.5* of the sporting regulations”.
It’s been believed, but never proven that several teams had found ways to correct the cars static ride height to cope with both low fuel qualifying and the more heavy fuelled race.  McLaren were vocal in suggesting one of the teams was Red Bull and announced they themselves would have such a system ready for the Chinese race.  Red bull of course refuted all of these allegations, stating that none of the solutions rumoured were in use on their car as they would be illegal within Parc Fermé conditions.  Its not clear whether McLarens plans to run such a system were true, or a simply prompt for the FIA to act.  They took this approach to the alleged Ferrari movable front splitter, asking the FIA for permission to run such a system in 2007.
This is not a rule change, but what is known as a clarification,  these often go unpublished but are happening all the time.  A Clarification is the FIA’s way of explaining how they see a rule being interpreted.  In this case they see the teams interpretation of a rule conflicts with theirs and send out the clarification.  If a team does not accept this, then they have to present their car to scrutineering at the next race.  The stewards will make a decision if they feel the car is within the rules and any relevant clarifications.  If this means the car is considered outside of the regulations, then the team appeal and the case will go to court to decide.
If teams have found a way to circumvent the spirit of the Parc Fermé rules, they will of course have to qualify with a compromised set up from now on.  This is bond to have a small effect on their comparative performance between qualifying and the race.

19 thoughts on “Ride Height: FIA act to outlaw any adjustment after Qualifying

  1. Whats interesting about this, is the fact that there is still doubt if ride height is changing. I assumed teams like mclaren, were using some form of photographic micrometer, to be so confident of red bulls application, I suppose if they have seen other indicators, this might suffice. Do teams reverse engineer for analysis, from the video tape and photography, to build CAD models of competitors cars. I know of some software that approximates this, are you aware if this is the case?
    Surely the scrutineers can take ride height measurements in Parc Ferme before and after Q and then race day?
    ps. You gotta feel for the engineers if they have been beavering away on a system to have it banned before the next race. Thats F1 i guess!

  2. In Australia, the Red Bull car was bottoming out on the bumps in qualifying. Clearly, Red Bull were running low; and some contraption on the car allows the correct ride height when fully laden.

  3. Sorry Im not up on whether qualifying is done with a full tank or nearly empty. If its the former you would expect bottoming out in Q. if its the latter, then clearly not. either way, this ruling may throw a spanner in the works for redbulls likely dominance in qualifying this season. Personally I think that could make for a tighter and more entertaining season. Im really confused this season who Im rooting for :s

  4. We’re talking ≈3mm in adjustment between quali & race aren’t we?

    Would adjusting tyre pressure be sufficient to make such a difference? (Assuming tyre pressures are allowed to be adjusted in parc fermé)

    • YEs tyre pressures are part of the solution for most teams, but this comes with other effects on handling, so its not the total answer. Tyre pressures can be changed in Parc Fermé

  5. Surely some form of continuously variable suspension, which lowers the ride height when the car is less heavily laden, would accomplish what the RB6 seems to have been managing. And there’s no suspension change in parc ferme for the scrutineers to catch — car is light means ride height is low — add 160 kilos and the ride height moves up to compensate, before moving down again as the fuel is consumed through the race. And that would also account for Christian Horner being able to deny with a straight face that there is any ride-height adjuster on the RB6.

  6. When drivers go to the extent of weaving to bring up tyre pressure, hard to imagine you could set P1 in Q with anything less than optimal tyre pressure? what im wondering is how there can be any doubt over the ride height dynamic, if the cars are scrutineered.

  7. Without a tip-off, what realistic chance would the scrutineers actually have off finding such a device?

    Unless they know what they are looking for (shoving an endoscope into a ‘drained’ Honda fuel cell), I generally got the impression scrutineering is not that invasive. They have got their weights and templates and protractors, but the process is usually over in minutes, and without disassembling the whole car, would they really be expected to find a ratchet or a valve inside a damper?

    Not saying anyone is up to any sort of shenangians one way or the other on this one, just wondering out loud how effectively this sort of clarification can actually be policed. And if they can’t reliably and fairly police it, à la traction control, should they instead declare open season on parc-fermé ride-height tweaks. It’d surely save everyone a lot of time, effort and suspicion.

  8. So who here thinks that this clarification is essentially saying. “okay, Red Bull, we don’t know what you are doing, but we have our suspicions. here’s the new rule, please be honest, ’cause if we find out, you guys are in trouble”

  9. It looks like perhaps McLaren’s approach was intended to force this action. Don’t know why but it seems more underhand a tactic to use, this ride height system. All be it clever. Would others agree?

  10. There is no way red bull are not changing the right height. A lot of people have even said that the car is visibly lower than the rest during Qualifying.

    Another thing is that it doesn’t make sense how its so much quicker in qualifying but then for the race their pace is about equal to McLaren and Ferrari

  11. it may seem a little simplistic , but you can use mass to create pressure
    so use the mass of the fuel to create pressure to raise the suspension , and it automatically lowers in line with the reduction of fuel load ….just what the doctor [ or uncle adrian ] ordered
    no alteration in parc ferme conditions you notice

  12. sorry , but my post is not well phrased
    the idea of this would NOT be to change or affect the suspension
    it would be to maintain it at the same level …a nice difference perhaps , but it is all a matter of interpretation of the rules

    it was ever thus!

    • Well, the problem is that whatever systems they are using, it is not maintaining the ride height at the same level as qualifying, otherwise, the Red Bull would also be bottoming out during the race – which it clearly isn’t.
      It is clear the ride height is being raised at some point between qualifying and race day.

  13. Is the variance in ride height balanced front/rear? I ask this because if the extra fuel load is distributed rearward then the front of the car would be less affected and the front aero setup would remain lower to the ground?

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