JULY 28, 2006
Mass dampers are legal - for now
The FIA stewards at Hockenheim that the mass dampers used by Renault are legal, despite a ruling from the federation's technical department since the French Grand Prix. The stewards argued that that there was no specific Technical Regulation that outlawed their use and were convinced with Renault data that showed that the damper system did not have any effect on aerodynamic performance and thus could not be considered to be illegal.
The FIA remains keen to outlaw such devices but it seems that there will be a compromise for the rest of the year.
The full details of the mass damper systems are now emerging. Rather than being inside the suspension system as had been thought, the controversial weight is located in the nose of the cars inside a separate damping device. These have been used by as many as seven different teams since September 2005. As this was felt to be legal teams are now developing new ways in which mass dampers can be used in the cars and the FIA was trying to stop this happening and decided to use the argument that the weight is a moveable aerodynamic device as it affects the aerodynamic performance of the car. Renault argued otherwise and showed with data that the device has no effect on the aerodynamics and its purpose is to improve grip by ensuring that the contact patches of the tyres are as big as possible all the time. The stewards considered other evidence put forward by the FIA but because of its confidential nature and the fact that this cannot be disclosed to or challenged by Renault, dismissed the evidence.
The stewards thus rejected the FIA argument because there is no specific rule banning mass dampers, that there is no evidence of any aerodynamic gain, that the use of such devices has been commonplace and that the FIA had accepted them up until July 21.
The stewards said that evidence not available to them might provide good reason for the FIA to act against mass dampers and that Renault had agreed to help in framing regulations to stop their use in 2007.
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