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As fans attempt to reconcile the reasons for the FIA’s recent threat of banning the FRIC system suspensions that many team use in Formula 1, McLaren’s Eric Boullier has shed a little more light on the obvious question—how will this impact the car’s performance. Boullier told AUTOSPORT (who broke the story):

“In the case of McLaren, we are quite relaxed,” said Boullier. “We don’t see any issue with this for us.

“I don’t think it will be too much disturbance for the rest of the season.

“We don’t like it when there is a technical change in the season, but maybe there is a reason why the FIA wants to do it.

“Maybe a couple of teams have been extreme and could potentially maybe be in trouble to switch back to a non-connected system, but for most teams I think it won’t be a game-changer.”

In essence, if you were looking to reduce the competitive advantage of Mercedes, this could be the way to do it if Boullier is correct in how aggressive the FRIC system is on the Mercedes car and what impact it may have versus other teams.

This prompts the question—is Mercedes the team that is pushing the technology beyond legality? If so, then a ban on their system would be understandable but it could also have serious impact. Fans will see this from different perspectives. Some may feel closing the competitive gap by banning the FRIC system that Mercedes rely on heavily is a good thing while others may feel it is a low blow to a team who got it right in favor of just manipulating the outcome of the season to increase TV ratings. Others won’t care one way or another.

How do you see it? I may be wrong here but if it is well known that Mercedes has the most trick system then one could presume it will impact them the most.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • From early on in the season I couldn’t help but think “They will find something on that car that is just over the legality line”. They’ve been showing a level of dominance that even late last year Red Bull never had (I know, 9 in a row…but some were kind of close).
    To play some devils advocate here, didn’t the FIA put out in it’s future tech “plan” that they were going to re-introduce active suspensions? If so, this just oozes tightening the field and nothing else.

  • Julian

    I would be surprised if Red Bull are not more impacted than Mercedes.

    This is just the sort of thing Adrian Newey and his team will have perfected, and would explain how Red Bull are performing reasonably well in spite of their terrible Renault engine.

  • Rapierman

    Who’s running FRICs right now?

    • MIE

      Apparently everyone is, just some are more effective than others.

  • Regardless of any of this, MBZ has been using FRIC for two seasons (at least). Where was the FIA and their concern for the past 24 months? Once a governing body has allowed a component/process/thing to progress and be used for this length of time, they should be assumed to have approved it. I see it as a sort of adverse possession rule.
    If this produces a tighter field and negatively impacts MBZ and RedBull, maybe Williams, F1 will have lost its last shred of credence.

  • StephenB.

    Was it fair to Ferrari, Force India and Lotus last season when high deg tires were replaced even though they worked hard in the off season to make cars gentle to the tires? No, it wasn’t fair. Red Bull benefited from it and we don’t even mention it 12 months later. It’s Williams 93 all over again. If they’re OK with it let’s just put TC and ABS back on the cars, get Google self-drive in on it and let the cars literally drive themselves.

    Removal of any kind of electronic assist to performance is almost always OK with me. Decreasing safety is the one area it is not fine and this doesn’t do that.

    • It’s arguable the safety issue necessitated a tire change, but your point is made with the engine map restriction 2 years’ past.

      ess, Ferrari.

  • Hazarding a guess, yes, I’d think Merc the most affected in absolute lap time; witness this Somerfield blog post April 2013:
    http://somersf1.blogspot.ie/2013/04/interlinked-suspension-and-mercedes-fric.html?m=1

    For the technically-minded, view the pic/illustrations of W02. For those disinterested, Merc had basically “solved” the L/R balance challenge, and was attempting to work out Front to rear weight transfer. Lotus had a similar overall concept, RBR and others rumored (and since proven.)

    Since then, Merc has altered its geometry for FRIC significantly, its resultant tire wear and suspension suppleness the tangible result. As Merc’s so much faster than everyone else, common sense dictates it will lose the most absolute pace.

    However, others will lose out, and in relative terms, I believe some more so than Merc. Lotus, too, will be hampered due to FRIC integration; they’ve been working on anti dive front setups, then FRIC, since Merc was Brawn. Those w/ stiff springing, lots of rake, little anti-dive, and/or poor mechanical grip will suffer, such as Williams, RBR, and back markers who’re already behind the curve.

    The only teams I see *potentially* benefitting relative to others are Force India, who’ve proven they can remove the hydraulics and run its car, Mclaren, who supposedly use a heave spring to control front dive and have softened its setup.

    Ferrari’s a personal question mark. Like the field, it runs FRIC, but can’t guess and haven’t seen others’ analysis of how integrated it is to the Scuderia’s aerodynamic and mechanical philosophy, nor its tangible performance impact.

  • Rick T

    This all very controversial, and is exactly what the flip of the coin fià do these days… But for though who don’t know (my friend) :P whats FRIC for people with out engineering degrees.

    • Here is a pretty concise explanation from Joe Saward:

      “FRIC is an acronym derived from the description of a suspension system that is “front-to-rear-inter-connected”. In practical terms this means that there are pipes inside the car that carry hydraulic fluid from one corner of the car to another, based on the inputs from the suspension. When a car brakes, for example, the weight of the car shifts forwards: the front suspension is thus compressed and the rear end rises. As the pressure builds inside the front suspension the hydraulic fluid is forced to the rear of the car, increasing the spring effect at the front but reducing it at the rear. As a result of this movement the car’s ride-height remains more consistent. The hydraulic suspension also works from one side of the car to the other which reduces the amount of roll. The entire system is deemed to be “passive” (which means that it is not controlled by anything other than the road surface) as opposed to active systems that are controlled by onboard computers and actuators. The overall effect of this is that a car is much more stable, which means that the aerodynamics work better and the weight of the car is spread as much as possible between the four corners at all times, which means that the tyres last longer and wear more evenly.”

      http://joesaward.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/all-about-fric/

    • Hello Rick T., Michael in Seattle’s quote of J. Saward is the basic technical goal.

      Practically, the intent is to stabilize the chassis during acceleration/braking/cornering for consistent a consistent aero platform, all the while keeping the suspension supple enough for traction. Essentially, maximize aero and mechanical grip.

      Through time, as engineers learned aerodynamic concepts, they began running the cars ran lower to the ground, first for ground effect, then predictable effectiveness of the over-body aero foils. This necessitated stiffer suspension to prevent the car bottoming, rolling in the corners, and pitching forward under braking, which upsets the aero.

      What was gained in aero was however somewhat lost in mechanical grip; very little travel means less ability to soak up road irregularities, transfer weight in camber’d or angled corners, and so on. Drivers much better than me can further explain how some weight transfer oftentimes leads to a more drivable car as well.

      Hope this helps

  • So, a question. Yes, teams will be hurt more than others by this change, but could the teams that also have a superior (effective) aero package, would they be less affected?

    Is this change simply to slow down some teams or to maintain the importance of aero?

  • Honestly? I could not care less. If they ban FRIC to hobble MB, then it’s just one more exterior piece of FIA nonsense to make the “show” more captivating. If they decide not to ban FRIC it will be because all the heavy-hitters are using it and suddenly you’ll have Caterham on he podium.
    External influence on the RACING outcome makes F1 lose credibility – every time.

  • Andy S

    If Ferrari had the advantage with FRIC, the FIA would not do anything about it.

  • We will see impact in about 8 hrs