Honda website
Honda website

JANUARY 23, 2012

FIA advises that reactive ride height is illegal

Motor racing's governing body, the FIA, believes that reactive ride height systems being pursued by F1 teams ahead of the new season will be deemed to be outside the regulations.

Lotus tried such a system in November's Abu Dhabi young driver tests and Ferrari is also known to have been pursuing a similar idea.

It is understood that on Friday, however, the FIA issued a directive suggesting that the developments would be deemed illegal, in that their methods of activation infringe article 3.15 of the technical regulations, appertaining to moveable aerodynamic devices.

The basic plan is to control fore and aft pitch of the car (dive and squat) under braking and acceleration respectively, in order to optimise aerodynamic performance.

On the surface, the systems would have been even more effective last season, with powerful exhaust-blown diffusers in operation. Red Bull designer Adrian Newey said recently that under the prescriptions of the 2012 exhaust exit regulations, there was going to be precious little downforce to be had from exhaust blowing.

"The problem with exhaust blowing," said McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe, "has always been the on/off throttle imbalance. One of the reasons the Williams active car (the championship-winning Nigel Mansell FW14B of '92) was so good was that it could use the active ride to manage the on/off balance. It could change ride height. That's why all the work started on throttle maps."

Although the diffusers will be less powerful this season and hence the balance change less pronounced, a reactive (believed to be controlled by brake torque) anti-dive, anti-squat device would still optimise aerodynamics and be relevant.

It's worth pointing out, however, that as with the double diffusers of 2009, it may be an avenue that teams decide to test out in a court of appeal.