The “trick” suspension, used by both Mercedes and Red Bull Racing, has been a bone of contention for Ferrari.
Attempting to find allies at the strategy group meeting on February the 7th, it’s now clear that the “active” suspension operates in a grey zone of the regulations.
Ferrari fears that the suspension would give both teams an unfair advantage over the Italians towards the championship. Because of that Ferrari, and a small group of like minded teams, asked for a clarification.
It is believed that the suspension gives advantages to the vertical displacement of the car. Stabilising the car’s roll through corners, improving aerodynamic stability as a consequence. Meanwhile ground clearance would be the same at all times (during cornering), and this would result in a constantly regulated (and ideal) flow over and under the car.
In the meantime, on the straights, the car would suck itself towards the ground and thus feeding the diffusor more effectively. This would generate a greater top speed with the same amount of wing when compared to a car without the suspension trickery.
Apparently the steering would become (progressively) lighter too, in the corners. The heavier the corner the lighter it gets, in slow corners even more than in fast ones. But the problem being that in F1, it is illegal to use any information coming directly from the feeling of the steering wheel. And feeding that info back to the car enables performance gains.
During the meeting, Ferrari attempted to understand as much as possible about the suspension. They, and their allies, bombed the FIA with any question they could think of. Hoping the answers would enable them to copy such a system or at least veto the concept. Their own ideas on how the suspension of Mercedes and Red Bull would work were all declared illegal by the FIA.
Meanwhile the FIA did say that both Mercedes and Red Bull are completely within the regulations. And, as it turns out, in both teams the knowledge of the system deemed top secret and known to only select few of engineers. Teams in the paddock without the system have tried many times to lure engineers in who might know about the technique, to no avail.
And so, it appears the reason for this meeting of clarification was an attempt to force the hand of the FIA by making Mercedes and Redbull disclose how the suspension works legally or to explain why the FIA didn’t think it was illegal.
But we know now that this meeting was unsuccessful from Ferrari’s point of view. Who’ve even asked the FIA to tighten the rules on the suspension aspect in order to level the playing field. Since Ferrari only found three allies at the meeting, the FIA did not agree to their terms. Only thing left now is to officially protest at the Grand Prix in Melbourne.