Technical Adjustable ride height - legal or illegal?


Staff Member
There was some discussion prior to the start of this season as to how the cars would cope during qualifying with low fuel and parc fermé conditions. The problem is cars must now be fuelled for the entire race so they are quite a bit heavier at the start of the race than during qualifying.

So if you set the ride height up for the race the car is too high for optimum qualifying and will lose downforce.
On the other hand, if you set the car up for qualifying then it will be too low for the race once loaded with fuel.

During qualifying today, Martin Brundle commented that he could hear Mark Webber's car scraping on the track and couldn't understand how it could be set up so low during qualifying without compromising the race set up.

Well it would seem Red Bull (and Ferrari) have an adjustable ride height system which enables them to change the height after qualifying.
This accounts for their significant advantage over the rest of the teams.
Ferrari's system is manual but Red Bull's is more sophisticated and possibly linked to repressurising the dampers.

This is what Martin Whitmarsh had to say after qualifying at the Australian GP:

"There's evidence there are ride-height control systems which many people thought weren't permissable," he said.

"As you can imagine, we're working quite hard on those systems now.

"The original rulings suggested such systems wouldn't be allowed on cars but we're seeing some cars which seem to have them.

"We've got to have them fitted as soon as we can - hopefully by China (the fourth race of the season on 18 April) we'll have something on the car."
BBC Sport - McLaren suspect Red Bull of trick ride-height system

And this is what James Allen has to say on it:

It is perfectly legal as long as the car is stationary when the change is made and the gain is worth a few seconds over a race distance. Here’s how it’s calculated; every 1 mm of ride height you move is worth 5 kilos of downforce, which in turn is worth 0.05 seconds per lap. So if you pit on lap 18 in Melbourne, you can lower the car will have 40 laps of benefit, which is worth two seconds. If you lower the car by 4mm, which is realistic, you will gain 8 seconds. It is only worth it if you can make the change easily in the pit stop without losing that time.
James Allen: Melbourne – the low down on the latest tech ideas

Once again we see teams exploiting loopholes (as McLaren did with the F Duct) and other teams playing catch-up.

The question is though, are both of these systems legal?
Should the FIA be clamping down on this or is this the only way they can allow the designers a chance to gain an advantage over the other teams?

Personally I welcome the fact that there is scope to play around with the design but when you need a team of lawyers and technical experts to interpret the rules, it doesn't really help.
The FIA should make the rules and regulations simpler and clearer so everyone knows where they stand.
I'm amazed that Ferrari have a similar system! :o I can understand the other teams and experts not noticing something like this on the Red Bull as it broke cover quite late in the testing season. But Ferrari have been out in the open for quite some time. And no one spotted it!

There has been a lot of chatter about this at F1Technical since Bahrain but it has basically been a sporadic argument about the interpretation of some rather spurious photos.

Legality is a strange thing isn't it? McLaren's F-Duct which stalls the wing is embrassed, their interpretation of the starter motor hole gets gingerly shoved into ill advised. And mucking about with the ridehieght during Parc Fermme conditions and race gets the nod! :dunno:

Charlie Whiting is making this all up as he goes along... >:(
Was just about to post that genji :thumbsup:

Mercedes GP team principal Ross Brawn has called on the FIA to clarify the regulations about suspension systems in Formula 1, amid suspicions in the paddock that some outfits may be using a form of 'active ride'.
Ironic really considering last year...
I guess we'll find out.

If they don't have some sort of adjustable suspension though, I'd love to know how they can run in qualifying with almost no fuel with the plank scraping along the circuit.
Surely when the car is fully fuelled with 160Kg it would just sit there beached on the plank?
The reason they want clarification is it might give them a clue as to what exactly it is that Ferrari and Red Bull are doing. They obviously have no incling as to what it is they innovated! It's a case of "Give us a clue". :dunno:
I can't imagine the handling and grip would be that good with the car bouncing off the bump stops for half the race.
Adjustable ride height - legal or illegal?

Illegal Simple has,

Brabham was the first to do it in the Ground effect era, and it got banned with the of the 'technical gizmo' era in 93

the FIA need to do something if Redbulls system is true, FIA have a habit of letting somethings slide (Im sure front wings thats have 3+ elements is not strictly legal too) sometimes they cannot with this.
Another legality debate makes me sad. So here's a childish script to explain what happened:

MW: We've got an incredibly clever idea to pump air through the car using the driver's knee as an aerodynamic piece
CH: Ferrari aren't going to be happy about that, Martin.
SD: No, we're happy with that; that's genius
CH: Surely it's illegal
BB: We at Renault say its illegal {No-one cares}
CW: Its legal
MW: Told you so
CH: Its so not, but we'll drop it, now back to Red Bull to race. Oh, look, we're leading
MW: Oi! You've got a ride height adjuster. So's Ferrari.
SD: Stop getting us involved!
CH: We haven't
MW: You clearly have
CW: Its legal
CH: But we haven't got one

And that's where we leave the scenario, since thats now!
now i am a technical simpleton but i really do not see how for instance redbull could do this. the cars are checked i suppose and if you have a system in the car to change for instance the settings of the shocks, then for sure this would be noticable.

also, i am surprised there is not a whole queue of teams in front of our man charlie whiting's office yelling. cos if anything like this would be the case then the other teams would be the first to know. they not only look at and simulate their own cars but the cars of the competition too and irregularities of a massive kind would be clear to all.

but good to see F1 has not lost its best trade of the last few years, controversy :)
Ride height control systems are the new must-have

After many speculations, it has now been confirmed that Red Bull, and notably also some of the smaller teams' cars have a special ride height control system that allows them to run the cars lower to the ground during qualifying. Since qualifying is now run with the lowest fuel levels possible, and given the fact that a car's suspension has been set up for the race to also withstand high car weights, cars with normal suspension designs are naturally higher above the ground. While this could equal a marginal difference of 1mm, any such difference is vastly important for the efficiency of the car's underbody and diffuser.

Well there are 2 rumours doing the rounds. Firstly, that its a ratchet system that adjust according to the pressure being put through the chassis. Its changes when the actual mass of the car changes(alleagedly).
The other is the suspension is pumped full of high pressure gas which gradually releases through valves as the race progresses, Ass the fuel burns of and the car gets hugher the gas is released, nullifying the effect.

Ride height adjustments during pit stops
Thread at F1Technical:
I've developed a special method of telling when Christian Horner is talking out of his :censored:

If you watch closely, His lips move !!!
3.15 Aerodynamic influence :
With the exception of the cover described in Article 6.5.2 (when used in the pit lane), the driver adjustable bodywork described in Article 3.18 and the ducts described in Article 11.4, any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance :
- must comply with the rules relating to bodywork ;
- must be rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car (rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom) ;
- must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car.
Any device or construction that is designed to bridge the gap between the sprung part of the car and the ground is prohibited under all circumstances.
No part having an aerodynamic influence and no part of the bodywork, with the exception of the skid block in 3.13 above, may under any circumstances be located below the reference plane.

© 2009 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile

Here is a copy of the FIA's infamous rule 3.15 relating to parts of the car that have Aerodynamic influence.

It was within this rule that the Mass Damper system was deemed illegal and within the confines of this rule that the Mclaren Flipping-Duct thingy was declared legal.

So where do we think automatic ride height adjustment would sit? I'm buggered if I know?

I think the most obvious one to rule out is a ratchet system since it can not remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car. Leaking a gas out of a spring however, that's a different matter.
10.1 Sprung suspension :
10.1.1 Cars must be fitted with sprung suspension.
10.1.2 The suspension system must be so arranged that its response results only from changes in load applied to the wheels.
10.2 Suspension geometry :
10.2.1 With the steering wheel fixed, the position of each wheel centre and the orientation of its rotation axis must be completely and uniquely defined by a function of its principally vertical suspension travel, save only for the effects of reasonable compliance which does not intentionally provide further degrees of freedom.
10.2.2 Any powered device which is capable of altering the configuration or affecting the performance of any part of the suspension system is forbidden.
10.2.3 No adjustment may be made to the suspension system while the car is in motion.

Here are some of the rules relating to Suspension systems. Now I would say a system that bleeds off pressurized gas in order to adjust the cars ride height would fail in this area for two reasons

1) The weight of fuel is being used to adjust the system however rule 10.1.2 states the suspension system must be so arranged that its response results only from changes in load applied to the wheels and since the car is underway when the ride height changes occur then rule 10.2.3 applies which states that no adjustment may be made to the supsension system while the car is in motion.

The ratchet system surely falls foul of rule 10.2.3 as well?

So it has to be illegal dosn't it?
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