Suspension design changes enforced on Mercedes and Red Bull ahead of Australian GP

by Rachel Hack

It has emerged during the start of the Australian Grand Prix race weekend that the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team and Red Bull Racing, were advised by the FIA to tweak the designs of their suspension systems prior to the first round of the season.

This is following a clarification request from Scuderia Ferrari over winter, which was sent to the FIA regarding the legality of certain ‘pre-loaded’ designs that they believed aided a cars aerodynamic performance.

Though the Italian team did not mention any specific teams they felt were benefiting from this concept in their letter, it is widely believed their request was aimed at Mercedes and Red Bull, who had both used such systems during the 2016 season.

The enquiry led to the FIA clarifying the rules, stipulating that suspension systems should not be designed to deliberately help aerodynamic performance, before going on to inspect the designs of all F1 teams during the pre-season test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Following these investigations, the sport’s governing body concluded that the designs of Mercedes and Red Bull did not fully comply with the legislation and therefore must be changed.

Speaking during a media briefing in Australia on Thursday, FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting, clarified the FIA’s ruling.

“You are not allowed to have a suspension system that affects the aero performance of the car in anything other than an incidental way.

“We wanted to see whether the suspension is generally suspension or if it is there predominantly for the aerodynamic performance of the car.

“That is the change. We have been focusing far more on that this year.

“If a suspension system behaves asymmetrically, then there is not a very justifiable reason for behaving like that – if a suspension system goes down at one speed and comes back at a different speed.

“If they are not able to convince us then they are not able to use it.”

It is not really known how much of an effect, if any, this will have on the two teams in question, but it has been confirmed that Mercedes did not use this system at all races last season.

With changes being made ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, Whiting advised that he hopes that will now be the end of the matter.

“Marcin [Budkowski] and Jo [Bauer] did a lot of work in Barcelona going through all the systems, and the ones we have inspected so far [in Australia] have been as we expected them to be.

“We don’t anticipate any problems.”

Ahead of free practice this weekend, the FIA are believed to have undertaken further assessments of the F1 team’s suspension designs, and all ten teams passed those checks without issue.

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