McLaren say they won’t have to make any changes to their car after the FIA clarified the rules regarding ride height adjustment.
Speaking during the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Phone-In engineering director Paddy Lowe said the team hadn’t developed ride height-adjusting technology as far as some other teams had:
We were aware over the last few months of a slightly different approach to it which we hadn’t historically thought to be the normal interpretation and we were reacting to that. But now the FIA have taken a fresh view of it and drawn a different line, and we’re reacting to that, which has meant we’ve had to change some of the things we were doing.
It won’t affect the competitiveness of our car because we felt we were rather late to the game relative to some others. We don’t know who’s been doing what and whether anyone’s been racing anything in terms of ride height control systems but we definitely got the hint that others were further ahead in development.
We had things we were working on, which haven’t gone on the car, which we’ve now suspended.
He confirmed there will be no alteration to the suspension system on the MP4-25 for this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.
According to Lowe the FIA’s clarification prevents teams from adjusting their ride height between qualifying and the race even through the use of self-powered systems which require no adjustment from the team.
However teams can change their ride height during a pit stop, which Ferrari are believed to be doing. Lowe said:
There’s what you can do to the car between qualifying and the race – the parc ferme restrictions – and there’s what you can do during the race.
In parc ferme, there’s quite a clear ruling that says any adjustment to the suspension would require you to start from the pit lane. This was originally intended to stop people changing springs, ride heights, etc…
This has got a bit tricky because you can design suspension which effectively self-adjusts during that period. There are all sorts of physical things you could to to achieve that. But if you imagine a suspension where, without any human intervention, it changes its set-up, I think there is a perspective where you could say ‘I haven’t touched it.’
I think what the FIA have now clarified is that even if you’ve effectively ‘programmed’ the suspension to change then you have made a change of set-up, and that’s banned.
What you can do during the race has also been clarified by the FIA. There are systems that can be relaxed which control ride height during a race, a bit like active suspension, but without using external power. Such systems were captured by that same interpretation – they are no different to active suspension, even if they don’t use external power.
During a pit stop you can adjust the ride height but you couldn’t adjust it on the grid.