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Active suspension could return as a standard F1 part in 2021

2021 F1 season

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Active suspension, which was banned in F1 25 years ago, could return in 2021 as one of several standard parts all teams must use, RaceFans has learned.

A proposal to introduce prescriptive parts was put to F1 teams at a meeting between them, Liberty Media and the FIA on Friday in Monaco.

Prescriptive parts are standard components which all teams must use, provided by an approved supplier. Some examples of these already exist, such as the Halo and fuel flow meters.

But a wider range of prescription parts is under consideration for 2021 in order to reduce costs. They involve areas of car development where there is little performance to be found.

Gear clusters, differentials, front and rear hubs, brakes and drive shafts are also being considered for inclusion on the prescriptive parts list along with active suspension.

The FIA banned active suspension systems at the end of 1993 to reduce costs and cut cornering speeds. In recent years some F1 team bosses have suggested reintroducing the technology in response to a series of disputes over suspension design.

Teams have resorted to increasingly sophisticated passive suspension designs, such as front-rear inter-connected suspension, to control car ride. A standard active suspension system could offer a low-cost solution, while freeing up F1 teams to spend their budgets on other areas of car development.

While the FIA aims to finalise F1’s power unit regulations for 2021 by the end of next month, discussions over other areas of the technical rules are expected to continue into next season.

Read more on the latest developments in Liberty Media’s plans for F1 after 2020 in Dieter Rencken’s latest column later today on RaceFans.

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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  • 94 comments on “Active suspension could return as a standard F1 part in 2021”

    1. Yes! I am totally on board with active suspension, and having the major components of it standardized. I’ve had this very thought for the last few years, since the super-complex interlinked hydraulic suspension rumors were swirling. How much less expensive would it be not to engineer, manufacture, and transport all the different spring, torsion bar, and damper arrangements, and how much less effort from mechanics would be required to make the constant small adjustments to them throughout the weekend? I think I’m also in favor of standardizing the smaller, more common components discussed too. These are things that require the smaller teams to spend rather large amounts of time and money developing that they could better spend on making the car quicker elsewhere. I hope Formula 1 can continue on this unusual arc of doing the right things for itself for a change.

      1. Been saying active suspension should return, as well as wider tires, and maybe ground effects, so that the cars would be less dependent on airfoil aero, which has become very expensive to research and design, and which also makes close racing impossible.

      2. Yep, this looks like a good idea. Anyone see a problem with it?

      3. Well, apart from a basic dislike of dumming down F1 and the developments it spurs, I think I could get behind this idea, especially if the backstory is a reduction in wing size and effect to improve the actual racing.

    2. Yes to Active Suspensions! Who do we actively suspend first? Stroll? Ver?

      Oh….on the cars…not the drivers. Ok, that’s good too.

      1. We suspend boring riders not Max.
        Boring drivers list:

        1. 1. Ericsson
          2. Bottas
          3. Raikonnen
          4. Hartley

    3. I’m glad for active suspension back.

      Incoming complains that cars is becoming too easy to drive in 3..2..1..

      1. Why be glad? If everyone has the same suspension it does precisely nothing for the sport. If it were opened up as an area of permitted development that would be interesting if you have a technical interest but even then the vast majority of fans would neither see it nor care about it.

        1. Apparently the stewards are having a difficult time determining legality of the systems and they even need to resort to nonsense claims that suspension is an aero part when teams come up with something that actually works.

          So in fact there is no real development allowed on the suspension now either, or at least only for the time it takes the stewards to figure out something is working and therefore must be banned.

        2. If you care about suspension more than the closeness of racing then your focus is a little off.

          1. Active suspension allows for mechanical grip. Mechanical grip allows for closeness of racing.
            Your focus is off.

            1. Not even understanding the context in which my comment was made. Your focus is WAY off, try again.

        3. I’d allow it but also mandate each team must share the technology with a bottom 4 competitor who spend less than or equal to say Force India for a small fee (say £200k per season for 2 cars) and upto 3 others for a fee greater than that.
          I’d actually mandate greater tech sharing just like they do with engines at the moment, so smaller teams can benefit from the huge resources of the larger teams. Ferrari are effectively doing this with Haas and to a lesser extent Sauber, and I assume redbull with TR.

          Just make it easier for smaller teams to gain access to the relevant tech cheaper so they can be competitive and concentrate on their aero

          Maybe make it so that big teams must run the same tech package over the weekend too to ensure smaller teams don’t get the dev parts (yes I realise it’s open to abuse but so is the current system)

          1. Basically F1 could be open for standard client parts and tech, whole cars would be too much, with the standard parts price and tech being mandated or managed by the sport (or FIA), that would allow high end garagistas to thrive rather than die like they have been. Now to bring manageable differences and avoid turning it into Indy World Series, teams have to build their own stuff, the important things, chassis, aero, custom active suspension with standard parts and or control, energy recovery if possible, with other core parts standardized like ICE + Turbo + Injection (more than 2 manufacturers would be nice, like now with 4), gearboxes, ecus (already done, but with free mapping management), halo, tyres (more than 1 manufacturer, 5 mandatory compounds for dry, 2 for rain), energy recovery parts and brake parts (more than 1 manufacturer, just parts not the whole thing, energy harvest limits). Would be nice to give them freedom and 130 Kilos of fuel to see what the teams can do with the tech and what the drivers can bring of it.

    4. But a wider range of prescription parts is under consideration for 2021 in order to reduce costs. They involve areas of car development where there is little performance to be found.
      Gear clusters, differentials, front and rear hubs, brakes and drive shafts are also being considered for inclusion on the prescriptive parts list along with active suspension.

      Is this the foot in the door for one make racing?
      This really worries me as it may make racing a little more cost effective but it will definitely stymie technical innovation, which is the core of F1. I know some people will say that these changes are only minor and ask how much innovation can there be in such basic parts. Visit Professor Mark Jenkins site you will see what I mean. Later down the track will they include gear boxes, engines then the chassis? all to make it more exiting I’m sure.
      No I do not want F1 becoming a one make indy car style series where the only difference between the cars is the colour.
      Quite simply that would be crap!

      1. All I’ll say is read the column at 1200 noon BST

        1. Oh…tantalizing…will the software control systems be standardized as well…or will the big spenders get all the great coders?

          1. @jimmi-cynic
            You’re absolutely spot on ! If the software will not be standardized then the costs will be insane.

      2. yes, the word standard worries me too @johnrkh, especially because the suspension doesn’t feel like it is the sort of component that gives you a small advantage if a team manages to nail it.

        I guess we will have to wait for @dieterrencken to clarify us, but it smells fishy.

      3. “Later down the line they will include gear boxes, engines…”

        @johnrkh Did we not essentially already have this in the late 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s when any Colin, Frank or Bernie could buy a Cosworth DFV and Hewland gearbox and go racing?

        1. Not at all as, it was not compulsory. When we used to watch a formula V or formula Ford race there was often a chassis that is dominant. That was because it offered the best overall package of weight strength and handling, but any Colin, Frank or Bernie? could design and build their own chassis and compete. They could test it against the best.
          In F1 in the 60s & 70s I it was Colin, Jack and Bruce who challenged the big teams and they did OK.
          There where no barriers to innovation. Also Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa and BRM all had their own way their own ideas and I wonder what they would think of one make racing.

      4. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        30th May 2018, 13:50

        I can see why people may think this is a step on the road to a spec/one make series. I have the same concerns. What we need to do is think of the the alternative. If one, two or three teams drop out where would their replacements come from? Could you watch F1 races with fourteen cars, nine or ten of which have no chance of winning? That would be crazy.

        Survival first. Lets get more teams in. The only way being to make it cheaper. We can think about rolling back the standardisation when F1 gets healthier. In the meantime lets increase the participation and the competition. Good luck to Liberty.

      5. I guess it is possible to see this as a foot in the door for “one make racing”, because it is a path to similarity and uniformity, but each team has their own engine, aerodynamic load, chassis, they have their own design philosophy, they have their own drivers and, on race day, their own strategies and tactical response to situations as they develop. So while the active suspension systems sold to F1 teams would have similar performance, there’d also be differences between each brand and model. Those differences will be weighed and considered by a team before final acceptance and installation on their car. I guess it is possible that with a particularly good active suspension system design that you’d end up with all the teams using the same suspension supplier and model, but you’d just need a team to feel that the system they’re using is hampering them and another brand and model will be installed on their cars.
        So I’d like to think similarity and uniformity of the suspension system doesn’t dictate equal car performance because there’s no rules about things like the linkages between the wheels and the chassis. All the teams run on the same track, but, as we saw at Monaco, the track is more influential on having a race than the car is. The winner won with a handicapped car while being chased by the four cars of the leading teams on the Constructors’ Championship table.

    5. ‘In order to reduce costs’? No. Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull have a budget that they’re always going to spend. As the piece acknowledges a little later on: ‘freeing up F1 teams to spend their budgets on other areas of car development’. That’s the reality.
      The ‘costs’ of being competitive in Formula 1 is driven by what the top teams are willing to spend. This will always be the case until either
      1) The amount of money available to the teams is reduced (not under the control of the sport as the budgets are signed-off by corporations and not necessarily related to prize or even sponsorship money for a manufacturer team)
      or
      2) The amount of money that the teams are allowed to spend is reduced (under control of the sport but very difficult in practice to frame the legislation, to police it and to have the current holders of power in F1 accept it)
      Limiting the number of parts available for development does reduce the variation in performance but it will never limit cost without other changes. This is pointless tinkering.

      1. Well Paul D, I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head, since Liberty and the FIA are trying to work towards a budget cap, that would be the limit on the budgets you mention, so this fits in very nicely with that target

        1. I’m against introducing spec parts without a genuinely good reason. Flow sensors, EMU, dash displays all make sense, but suspension is and always has been one of the key areas for performance differentiation in F1 and this change could never achieve its stated aim. Liberty aren’t stupid so I wonder if they are revisiting an old Bernie tactic of publicly floating bs ideas to soften up acceptance of what they really want to do. Maybe the budget cap?
          But I’m skeptical – to say the least – that Liberty will really be able to introduce a budget cap. If they do then it is likely (imo) to have too many compromises to be genuinely effective. I guess we’ll see.

          1. But when the suspension actually becomes a performance differentiation, the innovation to achieve that gets banned because it’s an illegal aero benefit.

            It’s all just a ridiculous waste of money which they have to spent because even if that small benefit can be had for only half a season it could mean the difference between WDC and/or WCC or nothing.

            1. Though I liked the way you put it in your previous comment, I’ll answer here @patrickl: well said.

              A good suspension setup will still be a team effort.

      2. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        30th May 2018, 13:58

        I agree a budget cap cannot work, but cost reduction is an imperative. We have several teams tottering on the brink of dropping out because of the cost. As I mentioned in my earlier post. We need more teams to join F1 and not lose them. It should be cheaper to be moderately competitive. Otherwise we face ever rising costs, dwindling numbers and for what? So pinnacle of Motorsport isn’t diluted? Give me a break.

        Surely more cars and closer racing is the goal. Liberty have a plan, lets give them a chance.

    6. Hmm, transmission, brakes, gearboxes I understand, but suspension? Isn’t that an area where development can have a big impact depending on a cars overall design philosophy?

      And the question I have is where are they expecting the teams to spend money then? Just aero? Isn’t that the exact opposite direction they should be heading?

      1. Aero is already restricted by limits on wind tunnel runs and CFD processing.

      2. Suspension sure makes a difference. Gearbox, brakes, transmissions (gearbox and transmission is effectively the same thing in f1 car) don’t make much of any difference. Maybe some weight savings can be had there. Gearbox might make a difference if it sets suspension mounting points for the rear of the car.

        Modern f1 car is all about aero and engine. Electronics matter too because everything in the car is controlled by electronics.

      3. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        30th May 2018, 14:05

        Suspension is a good choice. They will still be able to tune it as they would with different spring rates etc.
        More importantly (for me!) suspension is a big performance differentiator. This will give the smaller teams a better chance to compete… therefore attract sponsors… therefore get more money ..maybe new teams (getting excited!).

        I say grow the sport now, rollback the standardisation when the sport get healthier.

      4. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        30th May 2018, 14:10

        They don’t care where the big teams spend their money.. aero or otherwise. They want grow the sport overall. This means the smaller (and hopefully some new) teams need to be able to firstly survive and secondly be competitive.

    7. Hm, bit of mixed feelings about the part list.

      Hubs, drive shafts – are things I’m personally comfortable in being standardized.
      Brakes – maybe, based on which components are specifically being looked at (i.e. just the disc and calipers – totally OK, or something more, probably not, especially if it goes near the BBW)
      Diffs – maybe, but not too aware of how diffs in F1 are designed to have an opinion
      Suspensions – quite against it, as I see innovation in suspensions as being a core element of car design, and an area where teams have shown their creativity. If anything, I’d see ” a series of disputes over suspension design” as a success story of how F1 spurs different ideas and solutions.

      1. Drivers have their own preference for brakes. For instance Hamilton and Rosberg were using different brands. Until Hamilton was forced to use the same brakes Rosberg preferred.

        1. A very good point, @patrickl , about driver preferences.

    8. Correct me if I’m wrong here but another benefit of active suspension would be to keep cornering speeds up without the need for as much aero, thus reducing the wake for the following car and allowing them to run closer without losing the down-force they currently need for cornering at higher speeds?

      1. @tonyyeb I’m not sure as I’m not too familiar with the active suspension due to how long it’s been since the last time it was used, which was before I had even been born, LOL, but I hope you’re right.

        1. @jerejj It was the Williams FW14B that first had it along with a semi automatic gearbox that blew away the opposition in 1992… Often whole seconds ahead of the rest of the field.

          1. @tonyyeb The main purpose of the active suspension system on the FW14B was to help keep the platform of the car stable in order to ensure that the car’s aero could work consistently. That coupled with a mighty Renault engine, traction control, the semi-auto box and Newey’s tidy aero package made it the dominant package it was.

            There are a few really interesting Motorsport Magazine podcasts which Damon Hill did some time ago (which are still available if you look for them), one of the things he discusses is how the FW14B worked and it is well worth a listen.

            1. @geemac Cool, that sounds great. Thanks!

    9. Standardising parts to reduce development costs is an idea I can absolutely get behind. Standardising suspensions? Well, why not? But mandatory active suspensions? An expensive electronic system that could reduce the drivers’ influence?
      Baffling. I’m curious to learn more about the reasons for that announcement.

      1. The thing is, teams have been suggesting that a standard active suspension system would be a lot cheaper than what all of them currently spend on trying to find clever tricks (see the interlinked suspensions, the design of elements to make the car go down while turning etc) to a) make the car stable under turning and while accelerating and b) make something the competition can’t easily copy.

        1. @bascb
          That’s true, but it would be even more true for a standard passive suspension. Like I said, my issue is neither with standardisation, nor with the standardisation of suspensions, it’s the active part I’m unsure about.

          1. I think that by now, a standard active suspension (i.e. one that will have clear limits of what is allowed and what is not, easily checked by the FIA, possibly even on line) will be easier and cheaper to combine with cars that also behave relatively predictable – remember it’s important for downforce from the floor to have a stable platform to prevent bottoming out or worse, a car taking off Nase.

            And it could more easily incorporate a chance to larger rimmed wheels, which would potentially open up the prospect of having other tyre manufacturers than Pirelli interested in entering.

            1. And [active suspensions] could more easily incorporate a chance to larger rimmed wheels, which would potentially open up the prospect of having other tyre manufacturers than Pirelli interested in entering.

              I think this is an excellent point you raise, @bascb

            2. @bascb,@phylyp, yeah, the move to larger rims is clearly easier via this route, good point. It may even be the main driver for the change.

            3. @bosyber, I doubt that would be the main driver for this change – we’ve heard the likes of Symonds and others (I think maybe even Wolff and or Brawn) mention in the last year or two how active suspension would enable everyone to ditch all the complicated and expensive work on suspension for something that is easier/cheaper to do by now, so the cost factor (and the fact that it will be easy to set parameters and control them) is probably the main reason.

              But yeah, this is likely something they have had in mind as well, seeing how the opposition from teams was largely focussed on how changing the format would upstet all their suspension knowledge.

            4. Well spotted @bascb, active suspension probably could compensate for the lack of sidewall deflection in low profile tyres.

    10. Hm, on the one hand I can see the logic in this.

      With all the effort going into “passive reactive but almost active” suspensions it really does take up a huge part of the design and of the car as well as a large part of all the controversial issues and rules clarifications that are to be dealth with. And all of that for something that while interesting to do, can far more easily and cheaper be done with electronics (like it is done already on top road going cars). Going to active suspension would also increase road relevance and make it easier to accept larger rimmed wheels (since the loss of suspension play of the tyres can be compensated with the acive parts).

      On the other hand, one would think that the suspension is such an integral part of designing and building a car that teams would be reluctant to agree. That said, if teams are comfortable that it will save a decent chunk of money and doesn’t make it less of “their own design” I guess I am fine with it. It will certainly make it easier for the FIA to check.

    11. First reaction was NO, I don’t want the cars to be easier to drive (like on rails). This will ruin the racing.
      This is still my big worry if they bring back active suspension.

      But if (a simple) active suspension is only meant to stop teams from investing in FRICs (which I actually liked; great engineering), etc. then active suspension might have a role to play.
      But please keep it simple and just good enough to stop teams from looking for alternatives.
      The last thing we need is cars going even faster through turns without the opportunity to out-brake or risk ‘losing it’. The less cars can differentiate in the corners the more likely FIA/FOM will stick with artificial overtaking aids on the straights (DRS).

    12. And…
      … I am sure Ferrari will find a loophole and split the active suspension into 2 halves, and FIA struggling to understand if an advantage is gained.

      1. Yes, because that is exactly how standard parts work. Wait …

        1. Red Bull was modding the fuel flow meters.

          1. @patrickl
            I know. But that modification didn’t concern a part that directly affected the car’s performance. And when the FIA found out about Red Bull’s antics, because they kept experiencing failures that no other team had, they issued a clarification that banned the practice.
            And that’s what they’ll do for the suspension, which clearly is a highly performance-relevant system, right away. They’ll write into the rules that any team altering a single piece or line of code will be disqualified, and that’ll be it.
            This is a completely different issue from Ferrari’s battery usage, which concerns an area where the constructors enjoy relatively large freedom of innovation, and the way Ferrari have used that freedom is currently being monitored to ensure that there is no loophole.

          2. But they were disqualified @patrickl, seems like a good enough deterrent

        2. The comment was clearly a sarcastic reference to their split battery; amazed you missed that.

          But (and this is serious) teams still find ways to adjust the use/mounting/positioning/etc of standard parts to create a benefit. Just google ‘Ferrari mirror mounting’.

          1. @coldfly

            The comment was clearly a sarcastic reference to their split battery; amazed you missed that.

            What makes you think I did?

            But (and this is serious) teams still find ways to adjust the use/mounting/positioning/etc of standard parts to create a benefit. Just google ‘Ferrari mirror mounting’.

            No offense, but it seems like you’re trying to spoon-feed me knowledge I consider so elementary that I simply assume regular commenters know about it. What I’m saying is that I disagree with the sentiment that the commonly acknowledged fact that Ferrari use an unusual solution for their battery leads to the logical conclusion that they will use a standardised active suspension in a way that exploits a loophole. These two things may look superficially similar, but they are by no means the same thing.
            As for Ferrari’s mirror mountings: Those aren’t standardised parts. The halo is. Attachments to it aren’t. Ferrari found a solution that abode by the rules but displeased the FIA, so the rules were clarified. It’s as simple as that.

            1. What I’m saying is that I disagree with the sentiment that the commonly acknowledged fact that Ferrari use an unusual solution for their battery leads to the logical conclusion that they will use a standardised active suspension in a way that exploits a loophole.

              As I mentioned above, it’s sarcasm.
              It could as well have said Mercedes-oil burning/RBR-fuel flow/other; just Ferrari was the most recent in the ‘loophole news’.

            2. As I mentioned above, it’s sarcasm.

              I know. Remember my first reply? The reply I replied to?

              Yes, because that is exactly how standard parts work. Wait …

              Exactly, that was sarcasm as well.

              I really don’t think I’m the one who’s missing something. ;-)

            3. @coldfly Ferrari was the one doing the oil burning though. They had to remove the extra oil tank in Baku last year. Marked difference in performance from them before and after too.

            4. Don’t tell nase, @patrickl, (s)he seems to get upset when you single out Ferrari.

            5. @coldfly
              Is trying to annoy me some kind of hobby of yours? Get a new one.

    13. Active suspension would increase cornering speeds. This does not equal ‘easier to drive’. Why do people think it does?

      1. The car doesn’t bounce so much on bumps perhaps? Depends a bit on what the active suspension is allowed to do though.

        A video on Autosport’s youtube channel showed how Hamilton’s car control helped him get the car quicker through turn 3 in Spain and with less wear on the tyres. While other drivers simply lean on the outside tyres and let the car do the work.

        Either the active suspension will take that role away from the driver or it will negate that option for the better drivers.

        1. Active suspension does not smooth out bumps. It keeps the car stable laterally when cornering, leading to higher cornering speeds, making it harder and more physically demanding to drive at the edge. It won’t keep Lewis from spilling his coffee.

          1. It could smooth out bumps. Like I said, depends on what it’s allowed to do.

            But, again like I said, it now takes car control to get the car through the corner the quickest way. Balancing it out so it’s not fully leaning on only the outer tires at turn in, and having a system that does that automatically (or stops the driver from influencing it) would make it “easier” to driver.

      2. This does not equal ‘easier to drive’. Why do people think it does?

        Because it is true!
        It is not the drive height and levelling that makes it easier to drive, but the fact that various sensors constantly monitor the car/speed/etc and adjust the suspension. The ‘constant adjustments’ is the bit that makes it easier.

        Of course, FIA can dumb the system down but expect some help for the driver to remain.
        Bookmark this comment and you can call me on it if in 2021 (if it goes ahead) drivers don’t complain about racing becoming easier.

    14. I’m not sure if I’m for or against this. On the one hand I don’t think that it will reduce costs at all – as Paul D said above the budget will just be used elsewhere. On the other hand, as amazing as some of the suspension technology is, it’s getting more and more niche. I’m not entirely convinced that all F1 technology needs to be relevant to road cars, but sticking to all-mechanical suspension is like sticking to mechanical watch movements: lovely engineering but beaten every time by cheap electronics.

      I think that F1 is trying to perform a very difficult balancing act: it wants to be at the bleeding edge of technology, but leave the driver in control. In some ways a modern family car is more advanced than a F1 car (ESP, ABS, traction control) and that feels wrong, but how do you change it without making the F1 car easier to drive? I don’t know. Thinking aloud, many of the advances in road cars have been driver aids so what else is there to concentrate on in F1? Fuel efficiency? Aerodynamic efficiency? That doesn’t sound very exciting.

      1. @jimg
        +1
        The balance between driver skill and technology is already skewed one way. Logic tells us that bringing in standardizing the tech used would slightly tilt it in favor of skill. The primary motive is to reduce costs–we may have to compromise on a few things. At the moment, discussing what those compromises could be is purely a matter of speculation.
        We will have to take a wait and watch approach.

    15. The last thing F1 needs is cars being even more on rails…. yes it will be easier for the drivers, yes it will be a bit faster – but f1 can always speed up in other ways. yes it will end up with less overtaking, unless they cut the power back to say 700hp.

    16. Active suspension might help with cars being able to follow other cars. Modern f1 car generates a lot of downforce from the floor (ground effects) which is very sensitive to ride height. At optimal ride height you get most downforce out of the floor and diffuser (and best downforce vs drag). Go too low and your floor downforce stalls. Too high and you lose downforce. The right ground clearence is critical. Which is why modern f1 teams try to invent all kinds of passive hydraulic systems to control the ride height.

      So with this sensitive ground effects when you have heavier or lighter car and/or when you drive in clean air with lots of downforce pushing the car down or behind someone when you generate less downforce and as such your ride height also changes causing your downforce levels to change. Active suspension in theory gives perfect control of it at all times. Allowing lowest drag on straights and highest downforce (and road holding and grip) in corners. Although I’d imagine the effect of active suspension is relatively small for helping cars follow each other. And if the car ahead is getting even more downforce from its floor it is going to leave even more dirty air behind… probably making this effect null and void.

      That being said there are different ways to build active suspension. One question is whether fia is planning to replace dampers, antirollbars and springs with actuators (like williams did in 90 iirc). In a system like this the actuators control the ride height of the car and also react and adjust the car for the road bumps. In other words this kind of system needs to work at higher frequency and as such is more complex and expensive and uses more energy. The system is moving all the time trying to keep the car at ideal ride height for drag and/or downfoce while making sure all tires are generating maximum grip. It automatically adjusts for road bumps and so the actuators act as spring, damper and ride height adjuster. And by adjusting ride height you can also adjust things like rake and lean. If you add more actuators you can also make the car rear steer and adjust the tire cambers (or the computer does).

      The other solution is what the lotus active suspension car used. In that car the actuators were used to control the ride height of the car. In addition to these actuators it still had springs and dampers to control the road bumpyness. This kind of solution is simpler and less expensive as it can work on much lower frequency and can be almost added into existing cars. Technically you could even have just 2 actuators per car. One for front and one for the rear instead of having 4 (or 6 or 8) actuators, 1+ for each corner.

      I hope f1 is not going to add the second simpler type. I don’t think it is innovative enough and mostly would just add weight. Whatever the cost reasons are I think the choice should be either full blown active suspension or more traditional system. Or allow these current hydraulic systems to be developed more aggressively although it is not smart to spend all that money trying to create a passive system when you can create active system that is mechanically more simpler and technologically more advanced.

      My main issue is the weight of the f1 car. Modern f1 cars are massively obese and what they need the most is two things. Less downforce so there is less dirty air. And better lighter engines so we can make the cars 100kg lighter. With active suspensions the weight of the cars is going to go up by 10-20 kilograms. 760kg+ is just too much and when you add race fuel you are almost at 900kg. Simply getting rid of these obese hybrid engines would already half-solve f1 issues with overtaking.

      I’d not be worried about active suspension necessarily making the cars easier to drive. The fast moving active suspension is very likely going to be very rough ride as it adjusts itself all the time. Although that idea is based on 1990s technology. In worst case the modern systems would be miles better and smoother making the cars even easier to drive. Another massive issue with these cars is how easy they are to drive. Compared to the v10 beasts these things have double the downforce and tire and fully computer controlled power delivery. It is possible active suspension might make it even easier. What is certain is that active suspension will give bigger teams and advantage. They have the most amount of money to build the best active suspensions and make it work on track. I think overall active suspension is a good idea as long as we get better engines so we can make the cars lighter and by making the engines cheaper we also give the teams more money to develop unique active suspension systems instead of some standardised half-way measure.

      1. I think your write up is pretty solid there @socksolid ;-)

        But I do think you must have missed something because this:

        What is certain is that active suspension will give bigger teams and advantage. They have the most amount of money to build the best active suspensions and make it work on track

        will not be possible, since it would be a bespoke system coming from a third party supplier for the whole grid, much like the ECU.

        Which means that the system will be te same on all cars, and the FIA will be well placed to keep a check on what the system does (and could probably finetune parameters to step in if too high cornering speeds were achieved).

        1. @bascb, “if too high cornering speeds were achieved” I hope they will be and that will allow a reduction in wing size and dependence without the horror of increased lap times (although F1 has survived many adjustments that increased lap times in the past).

        2. The gap between top teams and others somewhat depends how much of the active suspension is standardized. Simply making the control unit (ecu) and the actuators standard for example still leaves one wondering what happens with the software. And where do you get power? Plus even if the software and power delivery is standard you still need to figure out out how to make the car aerodynamically take full benefit from the system. This means adjusting the active suspension system itself to work well with your car. Different cars for example have different wheelbases and suspension geometries. And to get most out of your car the system needs to be in certain positions at certain times so to speak which is little different for every team. Finding this sweet spot is very much just aerodynamic work.

          If you have perfect control of your suspension you can also do things with aerodynamics that you couldn’t do before. I’m very sure the team top teams with biggest budgets would be able to adjust the system and build the best aerodynamics package for it. I’m not really against it as f1 is chassis building championship and this is just it but in worst case scenario we could just add a system into f1 car that makes them easier to drive, more expensive to build, heavier and in the end would make the difference between top and other teams bigger.

          1. Yes, @socksolid, the sheer might of their overwhelming budget advantage is certain to enable the big teams to evaluate far more options and go for more intricate solutions within what is allowed.

            I do think that a standardized active suspension system can be as heavy/light as the current suspension and will cost far less though. On the one hand it is clear that the big teams will still have the advantage (as with any large rule change) but on the other hand, they now have the advantage of being able to explore all the options too and don’t think it will all of a sudden upset the balance even more. Especially if this is part of a move to bringing down budgets over time.

            1. I do think that a standardized active suspension system can be as heavy/light as the current suspension and will cost far less though.

              Less expensive sure but that depends on many factors. Redesigning the suspension for active suspension is not cheap for example. But at the same time teams can save money by not trying to create these complex hydraulic setups we have today.

              It is not possible to make active suspension lighter though. You have hydraulic pumps, liquids (or gases), electric motors, all kinds of sensors, valves, electronics, wiring and plumbing. Plus the actuators weigh more than the dampers and springs. A lot of the cost in the system is weight. Any standardized part needs to be reliable because you don’t want to decide a race result based on reliability of a part the teams have no control over. I don’t know how it could be lighter than what we have now.

    17. Some comment here are absolutely, 100% behind this idea, maybe even thinking about it as F1 doing the right thing for once coming up with what some probably think is the best thing since bread and hagelslag, but as much as I don’t quite disagree with that like others here I can’t help but fear that this is part of us getting close to an even horizon on the path of F1 becoming a spec series.

      Though at some point one would probably want to ask about whether that’s an inevitability against which any effort is futile (and therefore a waste) anyway. But then again unless you’re in one of the wrong timezones there’s already Indycar anyway.

      …wait, I live in one of those wrong timezones.

    18. Don’t like the idea of active suspension coming back, Like the idea even less with it been a standard component.

      I also think people need to look back at the reasons the system was banned to begin with & also what drivers & mechanics of the time actually thought about it.

      I know that Steve Matchett has said many times over the years that many of the mechanics were terrified of working on active cars as the systems were pressurized at over 2000psi meaning that if something failed in the garage or something was disconnected in the wrong order those working on the car would get hot hydraulic fluid sprayed at them at high pressure. Track workers were also apparently just as terrified.

      I also seem to recall several leading drivers of the time also not been fond of the system because of how it took away some of the feel from the car due to how it was smoothing out bumps & things.
      I also think it was Senna or maybe Prost who spoke about how driver feedback in terms of setup was less important because pretty much everything in terms of the ride roll/stiffness was handled by the computer.

      1. yet hundreds of thousands of construction vehicles that use approx 5000 psi are used daily around the world and no one is scared of them or scared to work on them. And also the tens of thousands of road cars that have hydraulically operated active suspension and I havent heard of any big probelms.

    19. BTW Does anyone remember that Zanardi crash in Eau Rouge in ’93? Apparently that was caused by his active suspension failing completely. Zanardi was out for the whole season after that crash and another crash before.

      Is hydraulic failure really something that can be prevented? They lose hydraulic pressure for the gear box often enough. But then, that just means they need to retire. When the suspension fails, sliding along on the skidplate really sounds like a recipe for disaster.

      1. With the amount of electrical current in the cars, they can easily run linear stators. I’m guessing the manufactures initiated it.

    20. At least active suspension is truly relevant to road cars. The MGU-H, not so much.

      1. @gwbridge, maybe, maybe not, I don’t think anyone was expecting to see road cars with active suspension within a year or two of its introduction in F1.

        1. @hohum Where have you been for the past twenty years or so? Road cars have had active suspension for years. Shock settings can be electronically adjusted by the driver with a twist of a knob on the console.

          “Active suspension is a type of automotive suspension that controls the vertical movement of the wheels relative to the chassis or vehicle body with an onboard system, rather than in passive suspension where the movement is being determined entirely by the road surface.”

          “The Bose system uses a linear electromagnetic motor (LEM) at each wheel in lieu of a conventional shock-and-spring setup. Amplifiers provide electricity to the motors in such a way that their power is regenerated with each compression of the system.”

          1. @gwbridge, You appear to have misunderstood my post and in the process confirmed the point I was making, I repeat, when Williams burst onto the scene with active suspension it did not start riots in car showrooms with customers demanding active suspension be fitted to their cars, yes it has been available for some years on higher priced cars as has traction control which has been universally adopted, in 10 or twenty years if we still have ICEngines in cars the MGU-H may be equally commonplace.

            1. And my point is that active suspension is relevant to cars being produced and sold right now, but it is outlawed in F1. The MGU-H may be commonplace in ten or twenty years, but if we have progressed no farther than that, our only option left may be generational starships.

            2. I am pretty sure that the MGU-H can certainly be part of engines in trucks and busses for longer range transport. Those will have Diesel engines for still quite some time (probably until someone invests in hydrogen distribution networks, if at all) @hohum.

              And I think it will be part of combustion engines in things like agricultural vehicles, probably military equipment, building equipment etc. In short, everywhere where one will not have electricity easily available (although many places could be provided with that from solar/wind energy for argiculture). Possibly for ships too, although there the acceleration is not such an issue, they have engines that run on stable rpm for long intervals.

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