When someone says Active Suspension, the diehard Formula 1 fan will immediately think back to the dominant Williams FW14B and its active suspension system in 1992. However, in recent years, active suspension has made its way back onto the grid in a variation of the original, 1992 format.
The active suspension system is an evolution of the now banned FRIC (Front-To-Rear-Inter Connected) suspension system. It worked by using hydraulic accumulators connecting all four corners of the cars to stabilise it. This system improved both the aerodynamic and the mechanical performance.
The FIA banned the system in 2014 because it breached several regulations as it aided in the aerodynamics of the car. However, due to many teams designing their car philosophies around the FRIC device, the FIA agreed to turn a blind eye to the devices in 2015 unless a team protested. After this, all the teams removed their systems and some of the front runners began to develop the Active Suspension systems we see today.
These suspension systems worked on heave, the vertical displacement of the car. They added stiffness to the suspension when the cars were under high aerodynamic loads. The heave element would then decouple at low speeds to soften the suspension and aid cornering, it was in this decoupling arrangement that the FRIC was developed.
The active suspension works in a similar way to the FRIC but takes advantage of the vanity panel.
The image shows the hydraulic ride and control system that Mercedes has developed, it works in the same way as the FRIC system but doesn’t connect the front and rear. Because of the tight front section of the carbon tub, Mercedes’ has been able to create a ‘step’ in their chassis, much like the one on the 2012 cars. However, unlike the 2012 cars which had to include the step during the design of the car, these cars could run a vanity panel which covers up the step, this meant that the German outfit could put the active suspension device on top of the carbon tub, this meant it could mimic the active suspension.
Once this device was discovered late last season, the other teams put in a complaint to see it banned for this season. But, after Ferrari put in an inquiry about the legality of their own active suspension system and Mercedes’ it was agreed by all teams that the active suspension used on the Mercedes was legal and will return for the 2017 season to clarify the suspension systems used for the 2018 debate.
With the top 3 teams most likely to use the active suspension systems in 2017 with the possibility of more teams using the system during the season, let us know what you think, do you think it is an unfair advantage? Should it be banned?
Featured Image: theF1blogger.com