The expected Melbourne appeal from Ferrari against its two rivals is likely not to happen, after Red Bull and Mercedes were asked to change their 2017 suspension designs.
As reported earlier there was some controversy over suspension systems during the winter, with Ferrari asking the FIA to clear up their regulations. They wanted to learn more about the legality of suspension-concepts that cleverly help a car’s aerodynamic performance.
Ferrari played it as an approach on whether their theoretical idea for such a suspension system would be legal , but the rumors of them challenging the legality of the systems both Mercedes and Red Bull had been running emerged quickly.
Last month the FIA came out with a tightening of their suspension regulations that made it clear suspension systems should not be designed to deliberately help aerodynamic performance, the governing body inspected the designs of all the teams during the pre-season running in Spain.
The FIA was clear that teams had to prove that their clever suspension systems were not designed to help the car’s aerodynamics (unlike what it used to be, where the FIA had to investigate themselves, whether the systems where legal or not), and concepts that Mercedes and Red Bull had wanted to run did not fully comply and had to be changed.
Charlie Whiting had this to say during the media briefing on Thursday (23 march 2017) at the Australian Grand Prix: “You are not allowed to have a suspension system that affects the aerodynamic 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’s where we have been laying the focus on this year.”
“If a suspension system goes down at one speed and comes back at a different speed. Then there is not a very justifiable reason for behaving like that. If they are not able to convince us then they are not able to use it.”
While it’s unclear just how big the impact of the suspension decision will be on Mercedes and Red Bull Racing, it is said that Mercedes did not run its trick system at every race last year so it was not essential to its performance.
With Red Bull and Mercedes having been asked to make changes ahead of the weekend, Whiting said on Thursday he was hopeful that there wouldn’t be any formal kind of protest.
“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 have been as we expected them to be (with this he means the systems re-checked in Australia).
With the reports yesterday of Renault fixing it’s engine troubles, to which we believed Red Bull to gain 0.5 sec per lap, we might see a decrease of that number. Then it will become clear just how much Adrian Newey’s cars gained with the clever system. Just a little longer and the long wait is (finally) over!
Update: Toto Wolff on suspension issue: “There’s nothing in the clarifications that forces us to change anything or affects our performance.”
Smoke and mirrors from the Mercedes team boss?