Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2014

No teams are using FRIC in Germany – FIA

2014 German Grand Prix

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Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2014The FIA’s technical delegate has confirmed that no cars are running a Front to Rear Inter-Connected suspension system at the Hockenheimring this weekend.

The sport’s governing body had warned teams ahead of the race it may consider the devices illegal.

Following preliminary scrutineering at the Hockenheimring today FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer said in a statement: “I can confirm that no car is fitted with a front to rear linked suspension system of any sort.”

Sebastian Vettel said it might not be clear until after the next race whether the removal of FRIC had any effect: “I hope it brings the field closer to Mercedes but it’s difficult to say.”

“All of the teams have been playing with it to some extent. How much it has an impact? I think it has to be seen this weekend and also probably next week in Hungary. After those two races I think you can have another judgement.”

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    Keith Collantine
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    50 comments on “No teams are using FRIC in Germany – FIA”

    1. This situation is absurd.

      Why is the FIA not able to categorically say whether each system is legal or not? Isn’t that their job? Isn’t the whole point of the FIA to decide the rules that the Formula is run by, and then rule if each car/team/driver complies?

      At the moment you’ve just got rumour and suggestion, maybes and possibles. Yet again the FIA is making their own sport a laughing stock.

      There’s part of me that hopes this increases Mercedes lead, just to punish the FIA for pathetic, weak willed meddling in the middle of the season. The other part of me also hopes this increases Mercedes lead, as I’m a Hamilton fan :)

      1. The question of whether or not FRIC systems fall under the definition of a movable aerodynamic device is a very complicated one though, and not something which could simply be decided upon. There are arguments for and against, and it’s something which would need to be investigated at length, and probably at great cost. So for the FIA to simply inform the teams and let them make up their own minds whether they want to fight it or not is probably the easiest way to deal with the situation.

        The fact that every team has chosen to remove their system rather than run it and contest any protest against them seems to suggest that the teams feel there is a very high likelihood of their system being found illegal, and so it’s easier just to get rid of it.

        It also saves money since it means that teams no longer have to spend lots developing these systems which we know would inevitably be banned at the end of the season anyway.

        1. I’m sorry, but I simply do not agree.

          As the governing body, the FIA have the power to state that this system is considered to be a moveable aerodynamic device, or that it isn’t. If any teams then want to challenge that decision, they can do so at their own risk/cost.

          Leaving it up in the air like this is poor leadership form the FIA, and terrible management. If there is doubt in the rules, you clarify it. Here, they have done the opposite – introduced doubt where previously there was none.

          1. Yes, the FIA themselves have the ability to make a ruling. But given that they had already passed these systems for the season so far, and that some of the teams had developed these systems very heavily, to the point where it may not have been possible for certain teams to just ditch it at short notice, the FIA took a pretty sensible approach – they told the teams that they personally would not be protesting any teams’ use of FRIC, but that there was a possibility that any team could do so. Then it’s down to the teams themselves to make a decision. Especially when the last time they enforced a radical change at short notice (banning off-throttle-blowing of the diffuser) it had pretty drastic consequences. The FIA will have been eager to avoid a replay of that debacle.

            1. @mazdachris The FIA’s approach wasn’t the sensible one, it was calculated to do exactly as it has done – to create enough doubt about the legality of the systems that teams are forced to remove them without the FIA having to fight a battle to show that the devices are moveable aerodynamic devices. The FIA knew that there was no way the teams would come to a unanimous agreement to keep the systems. So the FIA has made the decision and then pointed at the teams and blamed them.

              The cost of developing cars which were built around FRICS to work without the system will considerably outweigh any FRICS developmentcosts over the remaining half of the season.

              What the FIA could have chosen to do was announce that they would ban FRCIS from 2015, allowing teams to continue racing the cars they have developed for 2014 but providing a disincentive to further development in that area. But of course this would not have achieved their actual objective which is to try and stymie Mercedes (it’s not guaranteed to work, but it’s got better odds than the FIA doing nothing and they know it).

            2. petebaldwin (@)
              18th July 2014, 10:53

              @mazdachris – Im sorry but I completly disagree. The FIA’s handling of this situation is terrible.

              They first stated that they believed these systems to be illegal. This started the whole debate.

              Then, rather than making a decision, they said that despite believing the systems to be illegal, they will take no action but will leave it up to the teams to complain.

              This causes all of the teams with an ineffective (or less effective than Mercedes)systems to drop theirs and threaten to protest.

              What we’ve ended up with, is everyone dropping a new system on the basis that it might or might not be illegal….

              The FIA are “in charge” of F1 (I put that in quotes because we all know that they aren’t) and they need to act accordingly. What they have done instead, is stirred up trouble and then run away.

            3. @petebaldwin I think you’ve misread the narrative there a little bit. The FIA never said that they believed that the systems were illegal. Charlie Whiting said that in his opinion there was the potential for a team to protest a rival over the use of a FRIC system because it could be construed as a movable aerodynamic device. The FIA then went on to say that they personally would not be looking to put in an objection of that type (i.e. as far as they were concerned they were happy for people to keep running them) but that if a team DID lodge a protest then it would have to be looked at and a judgement made.

              The legality or otherwise of the systems comes down to a judgement call, and there are interesting arguments for and against. What they were saying was that they themselves were remaining neutral on the subject unless someone asked them to make a ruling, in which case there was the possibility that the systems may be found illegal. But without actually prejudging the outcome of any such protest, so that would really have been down to each team to decide how robust a defense they might be able to make against any protests about the legality of their systems.

              Every team then apparently looked at their systems, spoke to their lawyers, and decided that on balance it wasn’t worth fighting since the likely outcome would not be in their favour.

              Other than the fact that it took someone at the FIA until (we believe) May this year to actually spot that this interpretation was a possibility, there’s nothing about how any one has acted which didn’t make sense.

              Consider also that there would have been certain constraints since they wouldn’t have wanted to stir this up during a GP for fear of a result being overturned and turning into a farce, and there needed to be a reasonable amount of time given for teams to actually engineer an alternative, and the timing starts to make a bit more sense.

              Again, it doesn’t excuse the fact that the FIA could have realised this a lot earlier, but once they did realise it, their actions seem sensible to me. The only alternatives would have been to either keep quiet about it and hope that no teams cotton on and lodge a protest immediately before/after a race (dubious!) or to issue an amendment to the rules which would allow the systems to run uncontested (potentially beyond their ability to do that – there are procedures which need to be followed to make significant changes to the rules. Crucially involving the unanimous support of all the teams which we know is not exactly likely…) so what else could they have really done about it?

          2. I agree… make up your mind whether it’s illegal or not. Flip a darn coin if you cannot decide.

            1. Given that such rulings are open to a legal appeals process, it seems unlikely that a decision based on the toss of a coin would be considered legally watertight…

            2. petebaldwin (@)
              18th July 2014, 10:55

              If a decision on this would be lengthy, the most sensible (and thus, the least likely path the FIA will take) is to ban these systems from 2015.

              That would solve all of their problems (other than trying to slow Mercedes down this year)

            3. @petebaldwin again though the issue is not about deciding to ban them. Effectively there was a compelling argument that the systems were already illegal under the current rules. Just clearly one which hadn’t been put forward yet, but one which, once spotted, would surely mean that no team could realistically run the system without an equally compelling counterargument. The fact that all teams have now ditched the system tells you that they didn’t feel they had a strong case for the systems being legal.

              In order to prevent this, the only thing the FIA could have done would be to issue an amendment to the rules to exclude the FRIC systems from being considered an aerodynamic part. This is exactly what the FIA asked the teams, but none of them agreed.

            4. petebaldwin (@)
              18th July 2014, 16:24

              @mazdachris – so then it comes down to the FIA and their scrutineers being incompetant when judging cars against a set of regulations.

              They have inspected cars with various different systems on them and they have passed them as conforming to the regs. Suddenly, they are unsure mid-way through a season – so unsure that they are incapable of making a black and white decision.

              The other thing that confuses me is that the teams didn’t come to an agreement to ban them and yet, they’ve all removed them by choice. Why not just agree then? Kind of suggests there are more parts on the cars have similar gray areas about them.

            5. @petebaldwin Yes this is exactly what I have just said – that there’s no excuse for them only just realising that this situation exists.

              I guess if you wanted to explain it, I suppose the most obviously explanation would be that the scrutineers, when looking at a suspension system, especially one which is located entirely inside the car, are probably not being mindful of regulations about aerodynamics when considering legality. Again it’s not about making excuses for them, just trying to plausibly understand how they ever arrived at this point.

              With regards to the agreement of teams, again I think you’re misunderstanding the situation. It’s not about banning anything. Nothing was being banned, nothing was ever up for being banned. What it was about, was deciding whether the interpretation of the rules as they currently exist, would realistically define FRICS as a movable aero device. It seems that the teams unanimously decided that it was very likely that FRICS systems WERE movable aero devices (or at least that the interpretation of the rules was highly likely to stick) and so there was no point trying to contest it. Effectively it was easier for them to go back to the drawing board and fit a conventional suspension system than it would have been to try and construct a winning counterargument.

        2. The question of whether or not FRIC systems fall under the definition of a movable aerodynamic device is a very complicated one though

          There apparently was nothing complicated about it for the last few years, when the FIA looked at FRIC systems and saw nothing wrong with them. To now effectively say “we were wrong for the last few seasons” makes them look like complete idiots. What they should have said instead was that previous implementations of FRIC were in compliance with the rules while some of the new tricks being used in 2014 are not allowed.

          I don’t expect this change to have a big impact on the season (though there may be one middle-ranked team which gains ground and another which loses it), the big loser is the FIA’s credibility.

          1. petebaldwin (@)
            18th July 2014, 10:56

            “the big loser is the FIA’s credibility”

            You can’t lose what you don’t have.

          2. In order for them to say that, they would need to demonstrate why the changes made to the systems had pushed them past a certain threshold – why they were compliant previously and not afterwards, and which rule it was that they have broken. This is a grey area though, in that it’s about whether or not the entire system is defined as being primarily for the purpose of affecting the aerodynamics of the car. The FIA suggested that it could be, and clearly the teams agreed.

        3. I would still like to see a credible argument for how this is a movable aerodynamic device. I think it would have been more credible to ban it for the same reason as active suspension, driver aid.

          It does seem the FIA handled this very badly. The FIA has the power to ban things for arbitrary reasons if they want. Given plenty of notice it would probably be more palatable, than leaving very late in to the run up of a gran prix, and not making a definitive statement, rather leaving teams in a situation where they may later be disqualified.

          I’m hoping this doesn’t have any impact on the final grid. Teams shouldn’t be penalised for hard work and research, if one team has a bigger advantage from this, it is most likely down to the R&D they put into the technology… hardly cost cutting having the FIA pour that down the drain.

          1. FRIC systems have basically no purpose other than keeping the attitude of the car level under braking and through corners. The only benefit of this is that they can run certain rake angles to maximise the effectiveness of the rear diffuser.

            Effectively the argument is that a device which does nothing but influence the aerodynamic properties of the car is an aerodynamic device (as opposed to things like wishbones and braking ducts which have an aerodynamic effect which is a secondary function to its primary purpose) and under a specific article which I’m too lazy to look up right now, aerodynamic systems need to be rigidly affixed to the car. FRIC systems by nature are movable so would not meet the requirements of being rigidly and immovably affixed. Hence – a movable aerodynamic device.

            1. The issue is that the purpose of the FRIC is not purely about aerodynamic performance – whilst there is a notable aero benefit, there is also a mechanical benefit as minimising the effect of weight transfer helps maintain a more consistent load on the tyres and a more uniform contact patch.

            2. Except the purpose is to keep the car level. Road cars have these without aero. Yes, there is an aero effect on F1 cars but that is not primary.

              If we are to the point of banning all aero-influencing devices, I have a partial list of additional items to remove. Tires/wheels, steering wheel, all fluids (slosh around causing weight transfer which influences aero), and the driver.

              If you couldn’t tell, I’m not big on mid-season random bans.

            3. Don’t forget the entirety of the rest of the suspension system.

              And @mazdachris, the article is 3.15 I believe.

              Article 3.15 is the catch-all regulation that relates to moveable aerodynamic devices. It outlaws any part of the car that influences the aerodynamics that is not “rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car (rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom).”

              Mentions nothing about primary or secondary functions.

              As noted by myself previously and others here, if you’re going to apply the rule in this way to FRIC, then there are quite a few other systems on the car that are illegal as well.

            4. I agree with the comments of the anon poster. I think its more of a mechanical grip effect than pure aero-effect. When your heavy on the brakes you tend to do it in a straight line, that’s when the cars suspension is under most load and rake angle would be effect the most. You could run harder suspension to counter this, obviously too hard would be detrimental.

              That’s where I think most benefits come from, you can run the car with softer suspension and get the best of both worlds, better handling in the slow stuff and firmer suspension when really pushing the suspension hard in the fast corners.

              More over when we start to talk about how FRICS keeps consistent ride height during corner and braking, that’s exactly what active suspension done, and was band for being a drivers aid not a movable aeropart

            5. I understand the point all of you are making, and that’s the counterargument and the reason why the FIA couldn’t simply say that these systems are outright illegal.

              However, it’s interesting that despite all of the arguments to the contrary, every F1 team on the grid, with the best lawyer brains and the best engineering brains in the world, decided it was easier to simply accept the reading that FRIC constitutes a movable aero device. If they’ve looked at the facts and decided they don’t have a good change of being able to appeal, then I think they know that arguments that it’s about grip and traction won’t hold much water.

        4. @mazdachris, seems a little illogical to claim discarding 6 or so years of development as a cost saving, especially when, if reports are true, that development has resulted in a system that does all it could ever be expected to do and more. Once FRIC is banned the race will be on to find another way to achieve the benefits FRIC currently provides.

          1. Red Bull and their proprietary flexible nose layering will have that advantage more pronounced once FRIC is out of the picture. I saw reports that Ferrari might also have figured out how to do this now, and McLaren is getting there …

            1. petebaldwin (@)
              18th July 2014, 11:01

              @bascb – All of the top teams will spend millions on this now because it’s the next big thing.

              Mid way through 2018, the FIA will probably decide that after all these years, a wing (ie an aerodynamic device) that flexes (ie moves) equates to a movable aerodynamic device and we’ll be off again!

            2. The endless cycle … @petebaldwin

      2. Don’t worry mate, Merc fans will have the last laugh when this increases the gap.

        Just hope we can still have sustained wheel to wheel racing (ala ALO and VET) without the tyres quickly giving up.

      3. Hamilton Fan – this wont change, Mercedes have an artificial lead that cannot be cought up because of the Mercedes power advantage of 80-100hp over Ferrari and Renault. Ferrari likely have a car equal to Merc in aero, while Redbull have a better car then Ferrari and Merc, but the stupid early implementation of engine homologation for the new early formula have given Hamilton and Rosberg a massive advantage over the rest of the field. This suspension business will prove to be nothing and will not change the game one bit, as Germany will prove.

        1. kpkart – I can only hope you are right, that the removal of FRIC simply moves the advantage more into the court of those who have built decent engines and we see Mercedes benefiting even more from their ability to build a decent F1 car and engine package. Then the FIA is left with egg on its nose and F1 can be seen to remain a fair sport with the best team/driver combination winning despite political interference.

    2. Hang on. No front to rear … what about side to side linking? Does that mean the teams just disconnected the hydraulic line from the middle of the car and left the rest?

      1. I don’t actually know, but wasn’t that “cross FRIC”? With crossed connections, e.g. front left connected to rear right. Changing that into side linking looks like quite a big change.

      2. Side to side has actually always been in place, that connection is called anti-roll bars. The difference is that these bars don’t actually have an impact through movement (in contrast to hydraulic systems, where fluid is somehow moved). I don’t think there has been a hydraulic system like the FRIC in use to connect side to side ever, the higher weight and complexity surely aren’t worth implementing it.

      3. Side-to-side has been linked for decades and decades, via anti-roll bars, torsion bars, hydraulic systems, etc etc. They would already be well established on the cars, and wouldn’t be considered an aerodynamic device since the purpose is to prevent roll in the corners to maximise the contact patch of the tyres.

    3. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
      17th July 2014, 19:30

      I’ve heard a rumour that much of the update made to the RB9 over the summer break, before it proceeded to humiliate the efforts of other multi-million pound outfits, was in the FRIC system. We know most teams we running an FRIC type system by the midpoint of last year, and that it is likely the big teams (not including pioneers Mercedes) included the system in their European update package, but the blistering performance we saw from Red Bull in Singapore especially, a bumpy track, suggests an advanced Red Bull FRIC system; it is one of the few areas of carry-over between 2013 and 2014. Couple that to strong RB10 showings in Melbourne and Monaco and I doubt this ban will do Red Bull any favours.

      1. Lotus (then Renault) were the pioneers of the system – Mercedes just developed it a lot because they were likely using it to resolve their tyre wear issues.

        1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
          18th July 2014, 12:52

          @optimaximal – You are mistaking interconnected suspension, which we first saw on the Renault R24 in 2004, with the more specific FRIC system. The notion of interconnected suspension which contributed to Renault’s success in the subsequent years nullified lateral roll under corner load and allowing Renault to fit softer and therein more driveable suspension. The FRIC system also has the effect of neutralizing lateral roll, but more importantly balances the car longitudinally, raising the front of the car under braking and allowing for better aerodynamic grip. The aerodynamic effects under braking is what sets the Mercedes pioneered FRIC system with interconnected suspension more broadly.

    4. It seems that the reason for this ban is that while the FIA were happy with the FRIC system as its been used in the past, Some teams have developed the system (With others starting to follow them down that development path) in a way that is clearly been done purely for aerodynamic reasons.

      There was also concerns raised by at least 1 team that the FRIC systems were reaching a gray area in terms of doing some things which the banned fully active ride systems of the early 1990s were doing. That been altering the ride height & the angle of rake of the car at high speed to reduce the angle of attack of the rear wing to reduce a lot of drag.

      Its basically been getting very close to doing things that the fully active ride systems were doing, Its just all been controlled by valves rather than electronics.
      I gather than the FIA has been in talks with teams about FRIC since May & had informed the teams prior to Monaco that a FRIC ban was been considered so they have had a decent amount of time to prepare for the possibility which is likely why they all managed to remove the systems so quickly over the past week.

      1. I gather than the FIA has been in talks with teams about FRIC since May & had informed the teams prior to Monaco that a FRIC ban was been considered so they have had a decent amount of time to prepare for the possibility which is likely why they all managed to remove the systems so quickly over the past week.

        I certainly hope this is true @GT-racer.

        Although one really has to question the FIA for not making this clear at least to the fans and broadcasters to avoid the whole “suddenly interfering with things to skew the championship” feeling.

      2. Usually when the FIA discusses technology bans, it’s 99% of the time lined up for the next year. The only time it’s done in season is either on safety grounds or with influence from certain teams or the CRH.

    5. FRIC should categorically not be being banned in the middle of the season. I can’t help but think this is coming from one of the other big 3 teams clutching at straws to try and bring Mercedes back towards the pack, as nobody has really made any inroads into their performance advantage.

    6. No clever development ever allowed in F1? FRIC!

    7. What are the chances that this will be like the EBD controversy in 2011? Banned for 1 race, then re-instated for the next.

      1. that gave Ferrari a chance to win a race…..cant see that happening this year though!

    8. I don’t like this.

    9. Pure mischief by the FIA. Even if a team abstains from voting you wont have a unanimous agreement, so they got what they wanted but made it look like it was the teams who decided.
      The FIA is actively suggesting that other teams should protest results if cars run with the FRIC, and is just ridiculous.
      A simple clarification would have made teams aware of what is allowed and what isn,t.
      They did that for the EBD, the nose cones, the fins obscuring driver vision, fuel tanks within fuel tanks etc.
      It is obviouis they want to influence the outcome of races through disqualifications of some well known racing brands.

    10. 100% disagree with this, surely engineers and aerodynamicists should be rewarded for integrating unique, complex systems such as FRIC, the F-duct or double diffusers into their cars rather than have it banned mid-season because it gives one team a huge advantage. I know I’m not especially qualified to speak from the point of view from the engineers, designers and aerodynamicists but I can imagine that ‘pretty annoyed’ is an understatement knowing that their hard earned work and really innovative designs has to be scrapped mid-season potentially throwing their season into turmoil. If one team finds a loophole in the rules and they exploit it, that’s down to the FIA to fix for the next season rather than have the team suffer for what is the FIA’s mistake.

      1. from what i have read around the internet Charlie was happy with the normal FRIC compliance,
        which is this configuration,
        then a smarter team come up with a newer package which added ride height under speed effectively allowing the car to go faster down the straight,
        whether this is true or not i dont know, i believe its just hear say, but that would have pushed Charlie into making a decision like we have now,
        he has to make a stand before it all gets out off hand.

    11. If the teams have universally dropped it without much of a fight, then it’s obvious that the FRIC systems have only a negligible effect anyway. Otherwise we’d have at least one or two teams battling for all its worth to keep it and conversely some teams vociferously trying to get it banned.

    12. I’m just amazed no one has used the headline, ” No Fric’in way” ;)

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