Red Bull rivals seek rules clarification to cut RB6’s qualifying advantage

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Sebastian Vettel has taken pole position for both races so far this year

Red Bull are the subject of much speculation over their suspension system, which rival teams believe get around the rules on ride height adjustment, allowing them to run different ride heights in qualifying and the race.

Sebastian Vettel was on pole position for the first two races of the year and the team achieved their first one-two in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix.

The data below shows the RB6 is performing better in qualifying than in the race. If the FIA force Red Bull to make changes to the car, or the other teams can emulate their device, their advantage in qualifying could be wiped out.

The interest in how teams are managing their ride heights will come as no surprise to F1 Fanatic readers as we discussed the problem before the season began:

Heavy fuel weights at the start of a race present another problem for designers. For optimum performance the cars need to run as low to the ground as possible. But as the fuel weight decreases the cars will ride higher because there will be less mass pushing down on their suspension springs.

In the last two seasons when refuelling was not allowed in F1 – 1992 and 1993 – many teams solved this problem using active suspension technology, which could be programmed to compensate for the ever-decreasingly fuel load by gradually reducing the ride height.

But two clauses in the 2010 rules prevent those kind of systems from being used:

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.
FIA Formula 1 Technical Regulations 2010

The regulations appear not to rule out teams designing mechanical systems to adjust ride height during pit stops, but that may prove too complicated and time-consuming to achieve.
Five problems F1 designers face in 2010

Rumours claim Red Bull have a system which allows the car to run lower in qualifying than it does in the race, achieving a better lap time.

For proof of this we can look at the how the teams’ lap times in the race compare to their qualifying time.

If Red Bull are running a device that allows them to get a better qualifying lap out of their car then we would expect a greater difference between their qualifying and race times than their rival teams. Let’s crunch those numbers…

Red Bull’s qualifying advantage

Bahrain Grand Prix race lap time vs qualifying time (click to enlarge)

This graph shows much slower each driver’s lap time during the Bahrain Grand Prix was compared to his qualifying lap time. Only Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren drivers are included. Any slow laps or laps where a driver was stuck behind another car (within 1.5 seconds of a rival) are discounted.

As you’d expect, throughout the race the drivers got closer to their qualifying lap time as their fuel load reduced.

But right from the off the McLaren and Ferrari drivers were closer to their qualifying lap times than the Red Bull drivers were. It took until the end of the first stint (lap 16) for Vettel to get within 7.2% of his best qualifying time, while Jenson Button was within that margin from the beginning of the stint.

The effect was even more pronounced in the middle part of the race (laps 13-32). While Vettel was typically 5.3-6.6% slower than his qualifying lap time, the McLarens were in the 4-5.5% range and the Ferraris off by 5.1-6.1%.

On the face of it you might conclude that Red Bull’s race pace isn’t very good. But we know there’s nothing wrong with their race speed – they’ve led more laps than anyone else.

The reason for the greater difference between their race and qualifying lap times is their superior qualifying performance.

How big is their qualifying advantage?

It’s hard to say with any certainty how much time per lap this is worth. A lower ride height could be more beneficial at some circuits than others depending on how bumpy they are and what kind of downforce levels the cars are running.

Plus, we only have useful data from one race. The lap times from Australia are much less useful because of the disruption caused by the rain, the safety cars and traffic.

With those caveats, the Bahrain data points to Red Bull having a performance advantage in qualifying of around 0.5% per lap. That would be around half a second on Vettel’s pole lap of 1’54.101. Even if we conservatively assume their advantage at Sakhir was only half that, it would still be the difference between Vettel qualifying on pole position instead of Felipe Massa.

Based on the data, it’s easy to understand why Red Bull’s rivals are trying to clip their wings. Whether the FIA should ban Red Bull’s device, or whether the other teams should imitate it, is a different debate. I’ll let you thrash that one out in the comments.

Image (C) Red Bull/Getty images

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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122 comments on “Red Bull rivals seek rules clarification to cut RB6’s qualifying advantage”

  1. Mouse_Nightshirt
    31st March 2010, 11:16

    Well, if it is mechanical, I hope it’s legal, simply due to the fact it’s not contravening the rules. It would make a mockery of the double diffuser and F-duct rulings if it was declared against the rules.

    Mind, it looks like we’re set for a few Red Bull front rows then! I’d absolutely love to know how they’re doing it.

  2. The teams who want it banned are just sour grapes, I thought by bow they would no Newey is a geniuose and here he has clearly out smarted them.

    1. Good luck to Newey.

      I knew he’d come up with something to outsmart them.

      If they can get their reliablility sorted now, they’ll be golden!

      1. Oh yeah, he’s a real genius. He has produced a car that’s perfect for qualifying but not much else.

    2. I agreee, I dont see why mclaren is complaining, they have a manual device (drivers leg) for high speed sections…..

      1. McLaren aren’t complaining. They just want it clarrified as to what is allowed. They want to apply their own system in China. If it is legal they catch up Red Bull in quali. If not Red Bull lose their quali advantage.

        1. Paul McCaffrey
          1st April 2010, 5:01

          It was nice when teams updated their cars to catch up to their rivals instead of complaining to FIA.

          1. That’s what the teams are trying to do. But before they spend the time and money to develop and manufacture such a system, they first want to confirm that Red Bull’s interpretation is correct and the new system would be legal. If you thought something might not be legal, would you not check into it before wasting resources on something that then wouldn’t be able to be used?

  3. I am not sure if they do have such a system. Christian Horner was very open to FIA investigating them to clarify that they don’t have such a system.

    Is it not possible that Red Bull designed the car for a better qualifying performance considering how refuelling ban has made qualifying very important?

    Your stats are fantastic though Keith, defenitely their qualifying is way better but we are still not sure due to what! If not ride height adjustment what else could give them such an advantage, does anyone have any ideas?

    1. Maybe this is something that the drivers are doing intentionally? If Vettel is leading the race by 10 seconds, why push as hard as you can only to risk a shunt, and destroy your tires?

  4. I thought they were allowed to change the ride height between Q2 and Q3? With that I mean that they would be riding low in Q2 and then increase the ride height for Q3.

    Then the difference between Q2 and Q3 could be an indication of the benefit of an ride height system.

    Of course the problem then is that in Q2 the top teams don’t need to go flat out and since they only do so few laps, errors weigh in too much.

    BTW Mercedes wants the systems banned. McLaren simply wants to build their own system, but they want to know from FIA that it will indeed be legal.

  5. Sour grapes indeed. Instead of whining they should reflect on the fact that they didn’t come up with that sort of system themselves. Isn’t it the part of the sport to have smarter engineers and designers than others have, of course within the regulations.

    1. Who says anything about whining?

      1. Exactly, the problem is for some teams (from the sound of it Mclaren) have these parts in the pipeline but probably dismissed them because of concerns over legalilty. As with all these things the question is it innovative or illegal. They just want clarification so they know they can run their system.

        1. Are these the same sour grapes borrowed from Red Bull from last year when they complained about Brawn/Toyota/Williams double diffuser?

    2. I guess its not the same as Red Bulls relentless moaning last year because they got outsmarted with the double diffuser?

      1. I don’t think they carped on about it quite as much as Ferrari did – they were still complaining about it when they launched the F10!

        1. I seem to remember that what Vettel commented on most of the season was not having the ‘magic button’, as he called it, of KERS.

          My response would have been, which car would he have preferred to be in for the whole season the RB5 or one of the cars with KERS.

        2. Yeah thats true, i just seem to remember someone from red bull moaning because of there pull rod suspension and resulting gear box placement meant that the whole rear end had to be re-designed. Its all swings and roundabouts, its too be expected, i like the little innovations and bending the rules anyways.

          1. The sad thing is is that a couple of years ago the teams would’ve moaned once, and then build there own system. Now they moan for ages because building there own “costs to much money in times of spending less”. Which is absolute nonsense if you ask me.

        3. Keith, you’ve repeated the 2nd and 4th paragraph.

          1. Fixed it, thanks matt90.

    3. DamionShadows
      31st March 2010, 17:39

      That’s EXACTLY how I felt on the double diffuser debacle. Even if it is taking advantage of some sort of loophole, it should be allowed because it shows innovation and creativity in designs just so long as it isn’t outright illegal.

  6. This is normal procedure. Every teams questions each other’s innovations. Double diffuser, F-duct, mechanical(?) ride height adjustment. And thats just in the last year.
    They just ask the FIA to check it out, I don’t think any of the teams asking really think it’ll be anything illegal, its just standard practice to ask. And I’m equally sure that Newey isn’t losing any sleep about it being investigated. Just another day for an F1 engineer.

    1. DamionShadows
      1st April 2010, 1:12

      I haven’t thought about it that way, good point.

    2. I agree. If I were in another team, then I would want to make sure that there was nothing that I could be doing to match the Redbull team. I think it is just fair and open disclosure. They don’t need to say HOW they are doing it, just that the car has a ride height system. I appreciate that Mclaren won’t display the F-duct system, but I do like that I, the fan, can see that they are doing something. This sort of thing is what makes it interesting.

      If only at years end we would have the right to have the new technology exposed and explained; this would increase “the show” and allow the smaller teams to try and develop something similar for the following years car.

    3. By asking what it is legal and for a clarification is a round about way of admitting the other team had developed something they didn’t think of. Just asking for a clarification of the rules is the best way to allow teams to develop their own systems and show how creative each team can be.

  7. Mentioned this in another thread. Apologies to those who have already read it.

    You can design a suspension system that raises the height of the vehicle without the need to revert to such things as gas filled dampers. An example is Earles forks on a motorbike. When braking hard on a motorbike fitted with Earles forks on the front, the front of the bike actually rises.

    Red Bull has likely modified the geometry of their suspension to produce similar results, raising the cars ride height under heavier loads. This would account for the car scraping the ground during qualifying, running fine during the race with a full fuel load, and why they are not scared of any ruling.

    Their suspension system is purely mechanical requiring no adjustment between qualifying and race.

    1. Makes sense to me but you have to wonder why other teams didn’t pursue it.

      1. Red Bull is the only obvious team currently using a levelling system. The difficulty with such a system is getting the dynamics right:
        – You only want enough hight adjustment to compensate for the fuel.
        – You need to soften the suspension enough to compensate for downforce causing the car to lift in hight
        This is a very fine balancing act.

        Red Bull had a very good chassis/aero in last year’s car to base this year’s car on. This meant they could concentrate on other things, such as suspension, rather than spend excessive time on aero.

        Most teams would rather run very stiff suspension, limiting any hight change due to fuel and concentrate on chassis and aero. I would not be surprised to see Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren introduce similar suspension in the near future.

    2. Thats exactly what I thought when it was mentioned first. Surely there could be a way of using the force of the additional weight to move some sort of system rather than manually. That would mean as the race goes on and the car gets lighter the height would adjust itself.

    3. I’ve been trying to get my head around this. Not too much around to describe the Earles Forks system, but I have some vision of how it would work.

      The best I can visualise is a simple pulley system. Heavy load goes down to raise something else. I guess the suspension works on something like this?

      Mechanical yes and once set, no further adjustment is required. Sounds great and hats off to Mr Newey is this is his solution.

      1. I also visualized something of the same sort.

        The fuel tank being one side of the pulley. And the car floor being the other side of the pulley.

        But the fuel tank is attached to the car floor, how exactly does this system works?

        I hope John Beamer can explain this in his technical article soon :)

        1. I know it’s not a pulley, more of a rigid frame that swings. Hard to explain, but I do have a vision.

          I guess imagine an equilateral triangle standing upright.
          The top point is the pivot. Then image it as a childs swing. Move one lower point level to the pivot to simulate a light fuel tank. Where does the other point go? It goes down to lower the suspension.
          Drop the swing downwards to simulate heavy fuel and the other point goes up.

          Hope that explains it. Not sure if it’d work or if it’s what’s in the Red Bull.

        2. John’s input would be much appreciated! Crunching the numbers is so hard I don’t have capacity to deal with the mechanics of it!

      2. Earls Fork a good overview and some pics that show what a clever concept it is. Mechanically it’s just a couple of hinges :)

    4. Ross Brawn was asking the FIA for clarification on what could be done to the suspension after qualifying.

      He was specifically talking about gas pressures.

      I would assume he is referring to some work that the Red Bull engineers might be doing on their cars (filling up some pressure vessel?) which he thinks might not be allowed, or if it is, he wants in on it too.

      Not sure what the point is though. If Red Bull puts a gass in to push the car down for qualifying, why would they need to refill it afterwards? They let the gass leak out overnight and the car is high and ready a big load of fuel for the next day.

      1. Gas gets stiffer the more you compress it, it doesn’t compress constantly. So if they had a valve on their shockers they would have less gas in it during qualifying and top it up at the end of qualifying. Therefore they don’t push it down for qually they lift it up afterwards – if that is how they are doing it. That is quite a simple solution I think they are allowed to top fluids etc. up between qually and the race.

      2. Having a very slow leak would work. Over the race the gas escapes and lowers the car.

        1. I disagree. That would work if the dampers only controlled ride height, but they don’t. Allowing gas to leak uncontrolled from a damper would ruin its effectiveness in bump and rebound. The driver would find less and less control as the gas leaked out. I’ve had leaky dampers on my road car and you *know* when they aren’t working correctly. Thats on a road car, imagine the effect on a highly strung F1 car.

    5. The Earles fork design is not applicable to this problem. It works in the wrong direction. The same kind of geometry is already used to keep the cars flat through corners instead of leaning to the side.

      What you are talking about would essentially make the suspension work in reverse, not what you would want when going over a bump!

    6. Fergus Gallas
      2nd April 2010, 1:56

      Back in the 80’s Gordon Murray did something similar to Piquet’s Brabham. Back then, it was discovered and banned by FIA.

  8. It is not so much other teams wanting the Red Bull system banned but more to clarify what they are allowed to do. I read Martin Whitmarsh saying that if one of the McLaren engineers had come to him with an idea on how to change the ride height a few months ago he would have ruled it out as they thought it was illegal.

    It will end up as another case of clever engineers looking at the actual rules rather than thinking of the so called spirit of the rules. Last year we had the double diffuser and teams still having the side pod deflectors and barge boards.

    This year we have had McLaren’s F-duct, and Ferrari finding a way past the ban on shark gill exhaust outlets and a new interpretation on wheel covers. One of the best things about what Ferrari have done with their wheels is because they are one of the parts homologated at the start of the season the other teams can’t implement the idea during this year.

    A lot of people think that Red Bull have found a way around the rules to adjust their ride height, and if they have I say hats of too them.

    Christian Horner made a remark about McLaren commenting about this, but I seem to recall he claimed both Red Bull and Ferrari had seeked clarification from the FIA about McLaren’s F-duct system even thought Ferrari came out and said they had no problems with it.

  9. F1 is about innovation and being able to spot a development opportunity that gains you an advantage within the rules. If Newey and his team have come up with a derivative of the Earles fork good luck to them. The only reason no one else pursued it is that they didn’t think of it. They want it to be investigated in the hope that the FIA ban it. As others have said it’s just sour grapes. They got out thought on this one.

    i thought this was quite interesting – perhaps they are using something like this. i assume other teams would have avoided a similar system for various reasons (complication, weight, packaging etc), but they’ve obviously made it work somehow. very clever.

    alternatively, they have no ‘system’ and are just quick on light fuel tanks because it suits the balance of the car.

  11. I wonder if it’s all part of the RB’s pull rod suspension system? Was it known that refueling was going before Newey penned that design? I’ll bet it was.
    I can see how trick suspension geometry could be used to counter the weight and there’s probably less potential for doing this with the conventional design.
    If RB’s advantage comes entirely from their pull-rod suspension the other teams will have no hope of countering that this year.

  12. If such a system is being used how long will it take for others to come up with their own systems.

    Didn’t Martin Whitmarsh hint they might be able to run something this weekend? But surely not as they are on the road and its only a week between events.

    “an FIA spokesperson in Sepang has denied any investigation, stating: “The FIA has not introduced an investigation into the matter,” Auto und Motor-Sport reports”.

  13. Besides the innovative suspension, Red Bull have one more qualifying advantage: their drivers.

    Am I the only one remembering Mark Webber as the super qualifying expert, who even put the uncompetitive Jaguar on the front row? The first team mate Webber couldn’t out-qualify regularly is Vettel, and we all know how fast he is.

    Having two of the best qualifyers since Senna in the team should be worth a few tenths, no?

    1. Except Ferrari has Alonso.

      1. Massa is a pretty good qualifier too though. For that matter I don’t think Hamilton or Rosberg are too bad at it either.

  14. hah newey…
    I think i’m in love with u……lol
    Hats off.

    1. For designing a bad car.

      1. The RB6 seems very fast though. Is it really his fault that it’s unreliable?

  15. to me it is clear, what Button and Lewis ask of their team, when they talk about getting quicker in qualifying. It’s a brand new ride height adjuster-system!

    Here’s to the development race being on. Shark gills for extra cooling, varying F-duct systems and adjustable ride heigth will all appear in some form on this years cars.

    For next year most will make perfections and somebody finds something new, and on we go with the F1 sideshow. But this is a show only for knowledgable fans.

  16. I hope it is illegal, probably wont be though (very cleaver design), but i just hope it is illegal to see the smug look on Horners face wiped off!

    He’s always complaining about other teams!

  17. What if they haven’t got a ride height device?, and getting one on the car would give it even more of an advantage?…

    Just thinking.

    1. Love it; counter conspiracy, or put another way: “Even paranoids have real enemies”!!

  18. Gavin Campbell
    31st March 2010, 13:19

    I think the issue is all the teams assumed there would be no ride hide adjusters apart from possibly in the pits.

    Red Bull has one and its very 50/50 as to whether its legal.

  19. Interestingly,

    Ferrari – 33 Poles between their present drivers
    Mclaren – 24 Poles between their present drivers
    RBR – (6) 8 Poles between their present drivers (two this season)

    Something is going on. ;-)


    1. Jarred Walmsley
      31st March 2010, 19:37

      However when you remember that the other drivers have been in F1 for a lot longer than Vettel and Webber has only really had a decent car for the past two years (’09 and ’10) then those stats make sense

      1. That’s a semi fair comment

  20. In other news, based on qualifying vs. race pace, Jarno Trulli has also been accused of having a secret ride height adjustment system.

    1. Bang on the money there mate!

      I was sitting on pit straight in Melbourne on qualifying day and I can safely say, that the only cars that were regularly bottoming out on a bump halfway down pit straight were the Lotus’s.

      It left me extremely puzzled as to why they seemed to be running so low with no fuel on board… Both Jarno and Heikki’s cars were both the same, bottoming out in the same location. Not even the RedBull’s seemed as low as the Lotus’s, although I have a feeling that’s probably more to do with build quality or suspension stiffness than ride height.

  21. It is good to see clever innovations; but let’s imagine if McLaren had come up with this system do you think we would have been so courteous and respectful !! or would cheating, liegate etc been the common theme.

    1. i dont see a cheating, liegate etc being a common theme over their F-duct.

      Clever people should be left to make clever innovations.

  22. If RB are in fact keeping with the letter of the unfortunately poorly drafted rules, they have 1. a non-“powered” system that 2. adjusts itself in its normal operation.

    This speaks to a mechanical ratchet system that prevents rebound heights, progressively more aggressivley, as the suspension works over the race. Essentially, like a tiny automatic bicycle transmission that is triggered by force/torque over moment. It has to be mechanical because I do not believe seals in shocks systems could effectively bear the full weight and aero-load of the car enough be the operative mechanism. The principle seems fairly straight forward and a I’m sure many of you who are engineers could sketch it up in a sitting. But, obviuosly, the design of such a system must be unbelievably precise. Newey’s pen and paper is not like anyone elses, though.

    I believe McLaren want clarificaiton on the subject-free second provision, so know whether “no adjustment may be made” means “not by the team/driver”, or “not by the car itself.” I think the FIA will support RB, because foreclosing self-adjustment potentially puts all suspension regulation in disarray.

    1. BTW, Keith, brilliant work again with the analysis and graphical representation.

  23. I don’t know if I follow your analysis properly Keith. The way I see it, the only relevant phase of the race which you could compare to the qualifying performance is, say, the last ten laps or so. And even then, only if after a tyre change and in case the driver is trying to catch up with someone in front. Then you would compare apples to apples: Low fuel, new tyres and clear motivation to drive on the limit. Take data from 5 or 6 drivers in a similar situation, compare their differeces to quali and, in case the differences of one of the them turns out to be significantly bigger than those of the other drivers, one could suspect there is something fishy going on. The way the data is used, it does not seem to isolate an specific cause-effect relationship. A car that is much better than another when light, may turn out to be not so much faster when heavy for a number of reasons – e.g weight distribution, breaks, suspension, even aero related issues. After a few laps, other things – like how hard the car or driver is on the tyres – may also start playing a big role in th differences (car vs car) of the difference (race vs quali times). Thus, I don’t think it is a feasable task to pin Red Bull by just comparing race/quali lap time deltas – you will never have that perfect set of circunstance for the number of drivers and races you’d need in order to perform a statistic relevant analysis.

    1. In other words, you think there are too many variables for the comparison to work?

      1. That is exactly my idea – there are so many variables at play that it would be difficult to pinpoint the differences in lap times to an alleged suspension related trick.

      2. theRoswellite
        31st March 2010, 19:34

        The “too many variables for the comparison to work?” is at least a significant question, especially when the Q-times for the car are actually under, or processed through, a human being.

        Would the results for the graphed data be the same if Vettel/Webber were that small percentage better at qualifying than the other drivers, but the actual RB car capability was similar to the other cars?

        You can certainly use statistics/data to tell you what ever you want, but if I was the FIA I would be very interested in the relationships you have pointed out. Excellent work.

    2. Let’s face it, the teams questioning this are very likely to know such a system is in place on the Red Bull.
      I doubt very much they are merely speculating as we are…

      1. Agreed. One could take a picture from ground level of a car at a straight during quali and then take another picture in the last laps of the race – put them to scale, compare the heights between the track and the car and one would have the answer. I just don’t think the quali/race lap time delta comparison is a good proxi.

  24. Newey is the probably the best of F1 designers, and of course the sport is about technical innovation as well as quality in all aspects of production, preparation, testing, etc. And then of course the ability of the drivers and the team performing during preparation to qualifying and the races.
    In this way F1 is more like a hightech private industri than any other sport.
    Its just the usual business to check if the competitions innovation are within the rules or not, and then try to move forward from there.
    And I agree that Webber and Vettel are some of the best qualifiers, and when it is so hard to overtake, qualifying is of prime importance. Redbull just needs to increase quality and get another engine supplier…

    1. I’m glad you wrote SOME of the the best qualifiers. :-)
      Alonso 18
      Hamilton 17
      Massa 15
      Button 7
      Vettel 7
      Webber 1

      if I have my data correct

      1. Yep, my data concurs. Webber is pretty useless overall it seems. He does have a turn of speed at times – but that’s it.
        Severely limited by something – he’s at Red Bull to support Vettel and that’s pretty much his lot.

      2. Barrichello has 13, but your data is correct :D

        Webber, the so-called quali specialist has only 1 pole, when Trulli has 4. Hamilton has the highest percentage of poles in his career out of those listed, but only set fastest lap 3 times in his career. Strange…

        1. Rubens has 14, not 13.

          1. Jarred Walmsley
            31st March 2010, 19:44

            Where does Schumacher fit into that pole list? and David A I think the referring to Webber as the quali specialist has to do with his ability to put a crap car in a decent position on the grid as 2009 and this year is the only time he’s had a car capable of being put on pole.

  25. Just a tought.. What if they have some sort of system that is part of the fuel tank!
    Part of the fuel tank puts weight on a certain part wich raisesthe suspension.. So it doesnt with low fuel.. Don’t know how it would work if it could work. But just a tought :-)

  26. I don’t need to speculate whether they do or don’t have a system. I heard both Webber’s and Vettel’s cars skimming the ground in qualifying. Add 150kg of fuel for the race and they shouldn’t have been able to move.

  27. I can’t see what the problem with asking for clarification is. If the device is legal all the others will try to develop there own system. F1 needs more innovative design and must allow interpretation of the rules. We as fans have to stop taking sides when another team comes up with the goods.

  28. Looking at the graphs, the one difference between the drivers is also that Vettel did not finish the race in a good car. His speed towards the end was dictated by the sparkplug issue and if he had gone faster he probably would have touched similar numbers as the rest of them.

    The earlier the issue is clarified the better… its bugging to watch a race and see one competitor complain about the other’s legality.

  29. Keith,

    excellent article and supporting data/graph. It scary to see how close Alonso was (and consistently) to his Q times, towards the end of the race. Noone else got as close, as is evident from the chart data.

    I agree that the RB6 has at least a 4-5 tenths’ advantage in Q, and this exactly what Lewis has said (“they (RBR) are a good half second quicker than anyone else”). If it is proven that RBR is using an illegal device they should be punished paradigmatically.

  30. “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.
    FIA Formula 1 Technical Regulations 2010”

    i believe the speculated red bull trick suspension would be 100% legal, since frequency selective damping (j-damper) was ruled legal. the key was that it was integral to the suspension itself, and powered by the suspension’s movement.

  31. There is a very good article here showing just how Red Bulls system may work.
    It requires no commands and is an integral part of the damper.

  32. I reckon they’ve got holes in the bottom of the cockpit and raise and lower the ride heights “Flinstones Stylee” :)

  33. I think red bull are using a gas filled damper in their suspension and they are putting less gas in during qually and topping it up before the race. I think this is within the rules because they are allowed to top up fluids etc before the race. If it was an active ride system they would have an advantage over the whole weekend, but the performance doesn’t go across into the race.

    Technically as I read the rules they can have active ride – as long as it isn’t electrical. I’d like to see some teams try such a system!

    1. Sorry I meant as long as it isn’t powered!

  34. Most of people agree that RB has develop a system to change ride height and at the same time respect the rules.
    Teams have 2 options. Ask FIA to ban it or develop the system for their current cars.

    Here FIA faces a problem because last year they had the same issue with double deck diffuser. At the end some teams develop it for 2009 cars (Mclaren, Ferrari, Red Bull) but most of the teams were unable to do this due to budget issues.

    The same is happening now, if RB system is allowed them other teams will try to copy it but this will increase costs and left small teams without any possibility. Moreover it could make them dissapear because their sponsors will find it´s no sense support a team that has no chances of getting some points or develop their cars as the most powerful teams.

    RB system is very clever in using a loophole in the rules but even with that I think to make races even the system should be banned.

    1. They could all run identical GP2 cars, then it would be save money and the cars would be more even. Good solution?

      The whole point of a lot of changes in recent years was to encourage the teams to develop clever, low cost, tricks such as the f-duct and maybe a trick suspension rather than simply ever more power, expensive materials and aero. Lotus, Virgin, HRT and any other team have an equal chance of exploiting loopholes with clever tricks if they try.

  35. THe RB6 is a very fast car overall, but the lack of reliability, driver’s error (Webber and Vettel are quite mistake prone), mechanical failures and anything else will be their downfall.

  36. The people comparing the Red Bull suspension issue (and the McLaren F-Duct) with the double diffuser are completely missing the point. During development of last year’s cars a number of teams (including Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull) took the double diffuser concept to Charlie Whiting and asked if it was legal. He said no, so they didn’t use it. Then in the first race Brawn, Williams and Toyota had a double diffuser. The others were naturally upset, hence the protest. At the hearing, Lord Max said that the system was legal, and that Charlie Whiting’s earlier statement was only “advisory” and not binding. So double diffusers are legal, but naturally the whole issue left a sour taste in the other teams’ mouths.

    This year no-one is whining about F-Ducts or the Red Bull suspension; they just want to know if such systems are legal. No-one trusts Charlie Whiting’s “opinions” any more.

    1. It’s so sad that people keep repeating these lies.

      Renault and Red Bull never proposed a similar design. They might have contemplated it, but the FIA never said that they couldn’t use the DD that was deemed legal.

      They either asked the wrong questions or they never had the right DD idea.

      From the verdict:
      “The FIA argues that in no previous statement did it deal with the Contested
      Design Concept. The questions put to it in previous cases were different and
      answered correctly and in a manner consistent with its present position.”

  37. Stuart Hotman
    31st March 2010, 21:30

    I have no problem that the RBR is the quickest out there at the moment, but just out of interest….When was the last world championship that a Newey designed car won?

    1. Hakkinen 99 *I think*

      1. You’re right.

        And imagine if Schumacher hadn’t broken his leg that year. We’d be talking about 1998! Before then, you’d have to go to 1996, 1993, and 1992.

        Of course, his cars have been a lot more competitive than that suggests, but it does make you think.

  38. fast and fragile, not so fast but very reliable, what would you drive in a marathon season?

  39. We want turbos
    31st March 2010, 22:43

    This whole affair reminds me off 1994(I believe) and benneton! At least brawn & mclarens inovations are blatently obvious! Although I say bring back active suspension!!

    1. This is nothing like having a secret traction control system or tampering with the fuel filter.

      1. Left, Right, Break, Clutch, Paddle, Paddle, select “Option 13”. Perfect start :)

        1. But of course that was only so it wouldn’t be activated by accident.

  40. Prisoner Monkeys
    1st April 2010, 0:13

    I hate it when the teams do this. Rather than passing each other on the circuit, it seems that these days, half the sport’s competitiveness comes from getting everyone else’s cars banned.

    1. That’s just competition pure and simple. It’s just life I think!

    2. The way I understand it they’re after clarifcation. In other words they previously dismissed that avenue of development believing it to be illegal, or at least as close to, so as to make it a moot issue. The solution must be fairly simple (or they’ve already developed it but never raced it – see previous point on legality), Macca will have one in action in Sepang according to Whitmarsh.

      I note that Ferarri’s system isn’t worth cloning, no one seems to care about it (enough that I can’t find any details on it, other than it exists!). I also note that some smaller teams (Lotus) would also appear to have developed a similar system, lending weight that the system must be fairly simple (and cheap).

      Well done to Newey et al. This is the other 50% of why I love F1.

      Phew bit of an essay for 02:33…

  41. What seems strange to me is that none of the other teams went for it, even though the rules clearly allow it so long as it is not powered and not altered during motion.

    Whitmarsh hinted towards it being a gentlemen’s agreement in an interview somewhere, and it seems it wasn’t kept. To be honest, I can’t believe the whole KERS pact held firm… but it has done.

    1. Which suggests that KERS is too much compromise for not enough benefit. More weight (or less balast to play with) Less packaging options, more cooling.

      1. Perhaps, but if that ‘agreement’ was broken for whatever reason I’m sure you would see McLaren and Mercedes bolt on their already nicely developed KERS.

  42. Cast your mind back to last year:

    – Red Bull moaned that the DDD was declared legal
    – Vettel moaned about McLaren and Ferrari having KERS at the start
    – Horner moaned about the Renault engine being down on power

    This year:

    – Horner’s still moaning about the Renault engine (I guess it’s wrong to have more power than your competitor but okay to have greater fuel efficiency, having to carry less fuel and therefore having a net advantage from your engine that way).
    – Red Bull moaned about McLaren’s DDD
    – Though not the most vocal, Red Bull moaned about the F-Duct being allowed

    Seems that the other teams have every right to ask if Red Bull have a system that alters their ride height.

    Of course, if the FIA had a) allowed active suspension back in or b) stated that ANY change in ride height before the first pit stop was illegal, we wouldn’t have this mess. Again.

    1. Oh, and if Red Bull don’t have to fuel as heavily for the races, surely that gives them a natural advantage with ride-height anyway?

  43. Stop moaning about RBR

  44. Keith…. if i was a team manager i would higher you as my strategist… good work on that… sometimes i wonder why you haven’t been snapped up by a team yet?

    1. The teams can simply take pictures of the car and measure the ride height.

  45. BTW doesn’t anyone know if the drivers are allowed to change the ride height between Q2 and Q3?

    The difference between the Q2 and Q3 times could then be an indication of the increase in ride height. Although driver error will have a big influence there too.

  46. A couple of comments have been taken down from here. Healthy debate is good but insults are not allowed:

    F1 Fanatic Comment Policy

  47. I wonder how much Red Bulls apparent ‘off the race pace’ can be attributed to good tyre and engine conservation management coaching especially as they were not intirely happy with their engines quality which gave them some trouble last year.

    I like to think that Adrian Newey takes some pleasure from all the other teams fussing about his cars as he clearly has them on the defense, and this is a near perfect situation for psychological exploitation…

  48. I think the competition is just afraid that Newey has produced a better and faster car with RB6 than them, which is no doubt the case! Newey has just come with a car that is less sensitive to ride height, that’s it!
    I think this graphical comparison is to weak to have some real meaning! As you said, Melbourne data cannot be used and Webber was stuck in traffic in Bahrein the whole race, so that cannot be used either. Vettel was on the lead in Bahrein and was just looking after his tyres because there is no meaning to open 30s and destroy them. So which kind of comparison can be done from that?

    1. Webber was stuck in traffic in Bahrein the whole race, so that cannot be used either.

      From the article:

      Any slow laps or laps where a driver was stuck behind another car (within 1.5 seconds of a rival) are discounted.

      Whereas we have plenty of useful data from Vettel’s car as he was out front all race (until his problem developed).

      1. So in this case I’ve counted 8 laps from Webber in the graphic(blue squares) of a total of 49, which is not very representative in my opinion. Even more, 3 of those 8 laps are under 4% of difference, which was just achieved by Alonso in 2 laps in much more samples. I think this put a big question mark in this comparison, isn’t it?
        By the graphic, before the first pit and using the same option tyre from quali, Vettel’s difference was running between Massa’s and Alonso’s. After the pit Vettel’s difference increase a bit, but that was probably caused by loose more pace than the others in the prime tyres.
        Besides, it also well known that that Vettel in the lead was taking a lot of care of his tyres, probably more than the competition.

  49. Wouldn’t it be safe to say that we haven’t actually seen RBR’s actual race pace? I just think that maybe the fact that Vettel (no offense to Mark Webber) hasn’t yet had a fully functioning/performing car in the closing laps of the race, (where he would have the lightest fuel load during the race), could play a factor in all of this.

    Also I don’t think Bahrain would be the best place to make lap time v. ride height comparisons after seeing how bumpy and lumpy the track was. I would bet that everyone adjusted their ride height to compensate for the the uneven track surface.

  50. Guys, when do you think the FIA will make a ruling on this ride-height-control issue?
    Shouldn’t it have been made already by now?

  51. @yelrom:there is a difference between outsmarting and cheating

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