Ride height ruling no concern for McLaren

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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.
Paddy Lowe

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.
Paddy Lowe

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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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18 comments on “Ride height ruling no concern for McLaren”

  1. Is it me or are the quoted paragraphs very hard to read, in terms of grammar and punctuation?

    For example: “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.”


    “This has got a bit tricky because you can designed suspensions which effectively self-adjust during that period.”

    Is this how he spoke or how you recorded it, Keith?

    1. lol. yeah I find it hard too. it just needs a few more commas that’s all.

    2. Is this how he spoke or how you recorded it, Keith?

      There’s a judgement called to be made between how far you transcribe someone verbatim and how far you re-write it into ‘what they meant to say’. Obviously the danger with the latter is changing their meaning.

      The problem with the former is if you don’t go far enough you can end up with material that doesn’t read well and I agree, that’s the problem here.

      I’ve used some more quotes in this article and edited them a bit more heavily, hope you agree it makes it easier to read:


      1. Thanks for the clarification Keith. Just about to read that article too! Keep up the excellent work!

      2. Keith, I was curious as to how the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Phone-In works.

        Is it a lot of journalists in a conference call with Paddy Lowe, and if so how do they manage it, I would imagine unless there was an order for people to ask questions it would be a lot easier for people to talk over each other than in a regular press conference.

        1. It varies, sometimes there’s a set order, other times you have to ‘put your hand up’ by pressing a number on the ‘phone to register your desire to ask a question.

  2. Not only commas but words too are missing … Engineers are known for their “words economy” ;-).

    Your example: just remember what Martin said previously about how he would have rejected any suggestions by his engineers on a new ride-height, then the whole statement will make sense ….. hopefully :-)

    Your second quote should read: “This has got a bit tricky because you can have a suspension design which can effectively adjust itself during the race”….. hope to have contributed to a better understanding of an engineer, though I am not one :-)

  3. Well McLaren were convinced, an where also fairly convinced that they’d got one ready for China. Well if you hear the car scrapping the floor you’ll know there lying.

    An we know Redbull and Horner are boldfaced liers as well. You could here the Rebull scraping the ground in Q3 in both Malaysia, so the claims that their ride hieght isn’t changing or even a tinsy bit active is such rubbish it’s barley funny. It really ticks me off when the evidence is right there an teams lie through there teeth for a competative advantage. Redbull with their double standard “we’ll protest ride heights” an camoflauge protests against the F-vents have ceased to be the fun team or the nice team. Now there just the same as everyone else, an since Witmarsh and Domenacali took over an convinced their teams to grow up a bit Redbull and Horner seem the dirtiest of the front runners.

    1. ment to say, both Malaysia and Australia, in fact it was more pronounced in Auz

    2. Their car was inspected in Malaysia by FIA and according to FIA inspectors there where no indications to any ride mechanical high adjustment system or active suspension systems. I wonder wouldn’t it be possible to have a suspension that gets stiffer under load without electronic control or any mechanical leveling system just a internal suspension system that gets “stiffer” with increased load? Red Bull is the only team as far as I know that uses pull rod system while all other uses push rods would there be something in the pull rod system that allow for better control here? It seems kind of backwards at least this early in the morning. But consider they are the only team running pull rod and all other uses push rod maybe it’s just that simple that this is what gives them the advantage without running any type of right height adjustment systems?

      1. Pull rod may well give them an advantage, an may well be more widley used next year when DD are banned. However lowering your car gives your car performance, fact. An we can hear their car scraping the floor in Q3, when the car should be in Parc Ferme conditions, so either they found a way of keeping the car at 1 height regardless of fuel weight, which is nigh on impossible.

        Or they’ve found a way to run the car low in quali an raise itself up once fuel has been entered. Semi active suspenion. Making them liers, an clever f1 liers at that. It was said Redbull where considering pull rod for this year because of the diffusers, forgive for not attributing there dominance of qualifying an not nessasarily race pace to pull rod suspension.

        Don’t trust the other teams when they say there going to stop developing there own systems as well.

      2. We want turbos
        13th April 2010, 16:16

        Changing the stiffness, u mean like audis electromagnetic thing? U might be onto something there!

        1. Or dampers filled with a non-newtonian fluid…

  4. One idea I heard was that Red Bull were adding things to the bottom of the car in qualifying, then removing them afterwards. Here’s the quote:

    Maybe they just run a different undertray thats lower down to get the diffuser working better, not sure on the rules on this but isn’t it the plank to the road only? Just a thought I had.

    If they are allowed to check levels and safety stuff it may just be that there leaving some spacers off while refitting them before the race, would explain why Horner is so confident.

    Is this possible?

    1. If it is what they are doing, my guess is based on the clarification they can’t do it any more.

      If we get a dry qualifying and race this weekend I’ll run the same numbers I did here and see if Red Bull’s change compared to McLaren’s:


    2. Article 3.15 of the technical regulations states:
      “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.”

      I would assume that means that putting stuff under the car is not allowed.

    3. That would be plain old cheating.

      But maybe one of the fluids/gases they top off after parc ferme is a giant bladder of gaseous hydrogen.

  5. This might be a dumb question, but when is the race fuel added to the car? Is i after qual and before they go into Parc Ferme? or just before the race?

    Also am I the only one who doesn’t like the FIA’s ruling here?
    I mean, most of believe that this puts Red Bull in hot water, but this has not affected Ferrari’s pit stop method, Now I am not about to suggest anything suspect, I just think it would be better to either allow it, or disallow it, not find some sketchy uncertain mid point that might not be clear enough to force the teams into following it…

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