Red Bull will start the season without its suspension trickery. They have been asked to do so by the FIA. Mercedes also opts to do it without their system but does it voluntarily. Although the latter believes their system is legal, they do not want to take any risk in the first race. And they believe the system has no advantage in Melbourne.
We now know from Red Bull that certain functions of the hydraulically cross-linked suspension have been removed. They would not have been conform with the “new/ tighter” regulations. Red Bull tried running both ways in the winter tests. The first week with, and in the second without the system. Apparently not without effect. In the second test week, the new Red Bull RB13 was surrounded with a lot more negativity . The engineers and drivers partly no longer understood their car. This was concealed with comments like ‘We had the wrong set-up for the car‘.
So what about Mercedes, who also used an “intelligent chassis”?Mercedes￼ also ran in to some problems in the second test week. The W08 did not do what it should have done on a couple of occasions. The problems, however, had nothing to do with the suspension. Mercedes’ engineers said it was all down to the new aerodynamic package.
However, in the paddock rumors emerged. The performance gap of Mercedes in week 2 led to the suspicions that Mercedes had to change their suspension system too. A former Mercedes employee had told his colleagues that his ex-team is also affected by the tightening of the rules. Mercedes team-boss Toto Wolff objected: “There is nothing in the clarification of the rule that forces us to rebuild something, or that would affect the performance of the car.”
German ‘Auto motor und sport’ has now learned that Mercedes is not using the system in Melbourne. And that they, during the test runs in Barcelona, drove without the cross-linked suspension. Mercedes would not have driven the system anyway, without any clarification come Melbourne. Because the concept used by Mercedes in 2016 did not have any advantage at the track in Albert Park according to them.
Quite the opposite, if we believe them. The additional hydraulic connections and valves in the system weigh about 1.5 kilograms extra. As the new Mercedes is around 5 kilograms above the weight limit of 728 kilograms, they did not want to tag along even more extra weight. Plus taking the risk that someone will protest against it? Or that the FIA, in a routine check, sees that the functions of the system are still active. Why risk a disqualification when you feel you can do without it?
If the team management of Mercedes claims that nothing has been changed, then strictly speaking it has not lied. Physically, the suspension is identical to that of the previous year. Only certain functions are suppressed. Mercedes continues to believe that its system is legal. The question is, if the stewards feel the same way, in a worst case scenario.
A FIA technician admits that the chassis systems of Red Bull and Mercedes are so complicated that they can’t assess this themselves. “If we had even the slightest doubt, we would have to communicate these doubts to the stewards. What do you think they will decide? With the complexity of this technique, they are even less able to estimate which representation is correct – that of the team or ours. But they are likely to join our opinion, in such cases. ”
This is precisely the main difficulty in the assessment of legality. The technique is too complicated. A Mercedes engineer told us that even in their own team, a maximum of 10 engineers understand the system in its entirety.
At the moment the system is put on hold at Mercedes. Whether it is ever used again is not yet decided. The advantage does not pose the risk of being disqualified. In the past season it was obviously only being used at 5 racetracks. Red Bull, on the other hand, drove more often with his suspension trick. Interesting times ahead?