All about FRIC

There is a bit of a buzz going around today regarding FRIC suspension systems. These have been used in F1 since around 2008 when the system was first tried by Renault F1 (now Lotus F1 Team). 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. Removing the systems will slow the drivers, but not by much. The real impact will be on tyre wear. The FIA rules (Article 3.15 of the FIA Technical Regulations) on the matter are deliberately vague, stating that any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance must remain immobile in relation to the sprung part of the car. The FIA has now concluded, after analysing the current systems, that these may have evolved so much that the hydraulic system is now helping to control pitch and roll and thus influencing aerodynamic performance. Race Director Charlie Whiting says that the teams can agree to ban the systems for the start of next year, if they can all agree to do that. This never happens, of course, because there is always someone who gains and someone who loses with such a change. If the teams do not agree, Whiting says, they will become questionable at the German GP and anyone using such a system risks being declared illegal. It would then be up to the FIA Stewards to decide on the legality of the systems, with the Court of Appeal available for a further assessment if it is deemed to be necessary.

As with all such matters, different people will have different views about how this has come about, and who stands to gain or lose from a change. The only way to know that for certain is to see what happens after the change is made – if, indeed, it is. One presumes that some teams feel that Mercedes has a bigger advantage than others from this system and so they wish to stop it.

59 thoughts on “All about FRIC

  1. oh great… another mid-season technical re-interpretation rears its ugly head. I only hope that the team(s) who decided to push this find they lose out even more if it’s banned… (how mean of me!)

    1. Apologies – I should double check before I post comments – as Joe rightly points out it seems to have come from the FIA itself. Still, it is still bothersome. Can we just go racing please?

  2. Once again this is another move to artificially introduce change to what is considered a boring season. I don’t consider the season to be a bore. I find the dual between Hamilton and Rosberg to be the most compelling since the Prost and Senna in 1988.

  3. Wasn’t there something circulating recently about allowing active suspension next year or the year after? I think it was proposed as a ‘cost reduction’ idea based on common parts for all teams but the performance difference being in the ‘cleverness’ of the software which controls it.

    1. Only a few months ago I read something in Autosport about that.

      Now I see your point, I think. Nothing happens in a vacuum except stuff you don’t see..

      If this is all about rebalancing the field, how can anyone be sure MB can keep on pulling out 2s a lap? The lap times for the past few races really are interesting though. Just if this is reining in Benz, forget rights and wrongs, how can anyone be so sure they’ll keep their advantage?

      Also, if I get this right, this is saying “either EVERYONE agree to keep it, or we’ll ban it right away, else we’re (probably) outlawing it next year anyhow”

       All I keep seeing is strong arming, left and right.

      Was the talk of active suspensions meant to see if any team bit? Or was it to start raising the debate, so the FIA, Charlie basically it seems in this case, can say, “oh, but I asked you if you wanted active suspension for next year already… Tough Luck, Too Late Mate.”

      Every fan of every team ought to be fuming about this. I don’t see any team being hit worse than the others, proportionally.

      As for Benz, well I’m a fan, but I would be interested to see how well their PU holds up, in the event they are deprived of their current suspension. The negative is whether they already stressed their PUs already. With Felipe Massa being so dejected on Sunday, I paid more attention to what he’s been saying. Can MB really afford to do molasses slow formation laps?

      Well, it’s not dull. If it could only be less destructive. I keep feeling Bernie is being bitter and playing games.

    2. Yes it was proposed, but there is no sign of it in the current edition of the2015 regs, which are pretty much unchanged except for a few figures added, like the strength of the wheel tethers.

      The standing re-start is there however, further complicating the safety car procedure rules which are now ridiculous in their length. And still do not allow for any damaged car to go into the pits if there is a red flag.

      1. Watch the pics of Max Chilton from Sundays race when he heads down the pit lane. There’s 300 engineers crossing the pit lane. A car barrelling down that Lane is extremely dangerous.

        The knock on effect of Kimi Raikkonen’s misjudgement at coming back on track at full throttle into oncoming traffic. If there is to be any rule changes come from Sundays race, it should be around how a car that’s left the track then subsequently rejoins the track and the racing line. Raikkonen should have yielded before the straight, instead he kept his foot in trying to make up places, then he kept his foot in whilst off the track, and caused the most dangerous crash since Romain Grosjean played pinball at La Source.

        It should be the case that once you leave the track, you need to rejoin when the track is clear and the yellow flag is waved.

        1. OK point taken.
          I was also sure that the crash was caused by Kimi keeping his foot flat as the car hopped back up on to the track. A little moderation may have avoided the whole incident. That was bad driving and warranted a penalty. He knows better than that, he has been rally driving, ironically a sudden increase in traction caught him when he should have been ready for it.

        2. Hi Limelee,

          On rejoining the track, spot on. For the little relevance to road cars there is, rejoining the motorway right into the fast lane ought to be a common sense prohibition.

          Waiting for clear track, as you say, a better discipline. I can see that being too harsh some days, but there’s real frustration with the huge runoffs. The extreme case though could be dropping from first or second row, to the back, and cooling the tires & brakes and heating the engine. I agree, but I think such a rule needs thought. How come with all the regulations that abound, this hasn’t been thought of? Is it because of the worst case of a leader waiting until the pack has passed to clear the track, on a early lap? Surely this must have been thought about, at some point?

          1. The worst case is someone rejoining and an accident like that which occurred on Sunday. Kimi actually took a course of action which you could easily think was safest by rejoining the track at racing speed, it was the ditch that is used for drainage which he didn’t anticipate and led to the accident which put so many in danger. Without the correct procedure, what else is he meant to do? It’s got to be the case that once you leave the track, you are considered out of the race unless you are able to rejoin safely under yellow flags. A simple rule of rejoining under a green flag being an offence is sufficient. It’s then up to the stewards to provide a safe rejoining spot quickly, not the runner.

  4. “One presumes that some teams feel that Mercedes has a bigger advantage than others from this system and so they wish to stop it.” Nailed it Joe!

  5. an ingenious, efficient, passive ride smoothing device – sounds much more road relevant than spending ten of millions on another front wing flicky bit… no wonder it will be banned from F1!

    This addiction to aerodynamic development and a growing phobia of any innovation related to power, grip or mechanics really is most bizarre. Is there some secret cabal of windtunnel wizards behind it all?

    1. Except that FRIC and the planned return of active will be, as active was before, purely aerodynamic systems.

      Their sole purpose is to control the ride height and attitude of the car relative to the ground for aerodynamic reasons.

      But that’s no reason to ban them, as almost everything else on the suspension is there for aerodynamic reasons too.

      And yes, there is a secret society of wind tunnel testers who meet in a small mountain-top village in Switzerland every year to plan the control of F1, and indeed the rest of the world.

      Mwahahahahaha!

      Sorry, got a bit carried away there. πŸ™‚

    2. Perhaps one way to cut costs a bit, and foster development of tech that might be useful to all of us, would be if the FIA mandated a fixed library of aero designs that may appear on an F1 car, checkable by template, and the teams had to pick from this library rather than spend gazillions developing their own custom parts all the time. This library would include a number of front wing and nose designs, as well as a variety of rear wing shapes and floors. Maybe each team could upload a few designs to the library. The drivetrain, suspension, braking, software and so on would, and should, still be up for development (within the FIA regs), although as active ride is now so good and affordable I’d let teams go with that too.

      On the other hand, if all the development goes to software and cognitive ergonomics, we’ll probably see a Google F1 car, with a driver wearing a head-up display that “paints” the ideal line and entrains the driver’s throttle and braking in real time. At which point drivers are redundant and motor racing would be a very different beast.

  6. Just as you had published another article about how the sport should consider taking lessons from the NBA and NASCAR to better promote F1, here we have the exact opposite coming from the very people whose job it seems to be to give the sport a bad name. So the FIA has decided after 9 races that after all, they don’t think every car on the grid is legal….

    The incompetence of this is staggering. The term Farcical Idiots Association seems too mild a description for the FIA when one considers how many F1 cars have completed how many laps of how many circuits in 2014, any one of which might have given them the opportunity to spot an illegally some time sooner. Is Charlie Whiting really Prince George from Black Adder the 3rd? Because if not then this mid season ‘revelation’ is aimed at some team by another team with a hight degree of political power and it’s underhanded, match fixing cheating, sickening and turns F1 into a farce!

    What does LMD have to say about this ‘move’ from the FIA? In favour is he?

  7. Joe, you rightly admonish commenters on your blog for being negative. But does it not seem as though the FIA has been holding this interpretation of the rules as a card to be played at the right time? To subject so many teams’ hard work to the whim of any single team is just wicky wacky leadership.

    Cue the Benny Hill theme, mister director

  8. Joe,
    What about Charlie’s brinksmanship (a real Bernie touch that) setting the teams against one another to agree to a ban next year? If you are a Catherham, Sauber or Murassia you either don’t have a FRIC or it does not work that well based on results so far this season. You don’t have points or very few and the big teams wont listen on budget caps. So why would you agree to next year and why not pull the trigger on all the teams in the points in Germany. You then get points and might end up well in the points if you manage to just finish the race (hard sometimes for the back markers who like to get into collisions).

    A protest is probably the best odds the back markers have for points this year, so this is a near certainty to be ugly in Germany.

    So lets assume it is well known or widely assumed that the back markers would launch a protest after the race, who among the front runners would leave it off to make them bullet proof. Merc and the merc powered teams can afford to, Lotus, RBR and Torro Roso almost certainly cant as they will slip backwards on the grid. To me the winners here could be Ferrari, McLaren and Williams who will get on terms with merc. This will be fascinating to watch it play out and could really spice up the second half of the season.

    The last question is who offered up a proposal so outrageous that Charlie finally acted. Makes sense if you cant get it to work to be the person who pushed it to far…… be nice to know if someone who has it working was the one or a back marker looking to even the field. Time for the mole to get his quill out I think….

  9. Another clever technology with real-world application (see inertial mass dampers and others) bites the dust as jealous/incompetent F1 teams try to improve their competitive situation by whining not winning.

    This smells of horse manure.

    1. Well if you ever drive a Citroen C5 I guess that is similar, and been around a lot longer….personally I’d say coil springs and dampers only….but then I am a dinosaur….

      1. Only the early ones unfortunately, after the first couple of years they went to conventional springs. The Xantia (C5 predecessor) had a wonderful ride as did the XM and the DS years before. (See “Mon Oncle” by M Tati )

        So yes, road relevant F1 suspension that was standard for many years but sadly too expensive and vulnerable to the ravages of the MOT. (Still used in some RR and Merc models)

        1. My 05 plate C5 had hydraulic and it was, as always with Citroens, a superb ride and great cornering/stability, with height adjustment for rough roads at slow speed, like fields and so on.

    1. To make what is legal undefineable so as to have the option to interfere for murky reasons to manipulate the result of the championship.

      Now why is it F1 is loosing it’s fan base and can’t seem to attract new viewers?

      1. There is a corollary to “a contract is a pause in negotiations”, which is that contracts tend to be signed when there is not a balance of interests, but the maximum permissible imbalance. E.g. when a salesman is weak and drops a price, at a very simplistic level. But a good salesman will not drop a price without some other, usually future, affordance, hence continuation. Equally I believe regulations are agreed ~ for now we are in the era of the Steering Committee Soviet ~ along these same lines.

    2. As the legal folk might ask, “Who benefits?”
      (As an aside I doubt if we’ll ever see CW or the FIA lessen their discretionary powers. All for the good of the ‘sport’ spin of course.)

      And thanks to John (other John) for a gem of a line: “Nothing happens in a vacuum except stuff you don’t see.”

    3. The standard reason is that stipulating precise technologies to ban simply means that the teams keep adding new trick parts faster than the FIA can dry ink on new versions of the rule documents. The aim of an ambiguous catch-all clause is to produce “future-proof” regulations, the downside clearly being the constant need for interpretation.

  10. It seems that mid-season rule changes are becoming fashionable! We have really great racing at the moment, would be a shame to mess with the formula that is clearly providing some truly exciting races this year.
    Still, I’m sure any change will have a marginal effect as did last years tyre issues.

  11. Interesting. When Red Bull was absolutely crushing the competition during the last three seasons, nobody at the FIA proposed such a “re-interpretation” mid-season to level the playing field. This strikes me as being targeted specifically at Mercedes. If I was Mercedes, I’d publicly call the FIA out on this nonsense. Formula 1 needs Mercedes more than Mercedes needs it. If Mercedes were to threaten to just walk away from the sport if they start this foolishness, the FIA would likely fold up like tissue paper. It isn’t just the two cars and their drivers, but the engine supply to 1/3 of the grid that would wreak havoc. Then the icing on the cake would be Mercedes going to the European Commission and opening that mess up again. It would all end up being litigated for years, but the damage to the sport would be done. And a herd of lawyers racking up billable hours would still be considerably cheaper for Mercedes’ bottom line than a full-blown F1 program.

  12. Don’t know about you but I am really enjoying this season, most of the races have had some really exciting overtaking and I thank the stars that we no longer have to put up with the “Trulli Train” or watch a tedious race where the only change in track position was done in the pit stops.
    I’m not bothered about a technical change to the rules so much just hope that we still have great and somewhat less predictable races. We were denied a nail biting finish with Rosberg’s retirement, so hopefully Hockenheim will delight us all.

    1. At the beginning of the year, convalescing in many ways, I could care less either for the regulations. Gimme Racing Already! And I was rewarded for my simple yearning. By the summer come, however, the fair maiden of my rejuvenated love, has shown she is complicated, needy, and hinted at a self destructive nervous disposition, and I am becoming touched by the same. Our glances are increasingly knowing, tender yet worried, hopeful yet sad, expectant but evocative of unsure emotion, exuberant in the moment, yet the ever closer embraces became embraces of gentle but querulous voices, longing to know a unknown, of portents and penumbra, so somehow we might act…

  13. A change far better left until the end of the season. The change risks having the whole championship ending up in the courts. A really stupid move to zero benefit to the paying public.

    Wilson

  14. It seemed to work fine on my ’67 Riley Elf when it was called a Hydroelastic suspension! Except when it would adjust ride height automatically (leak).

  15. My initial reaction to this was “why now?” after FRIC has been around for sometime. Not being an engineer, I wonder how easy it is to de-FRIC a car which has presumably been designed from the ground up with this as an integral component?

  16. Well FRIC an A.

    This kind of thing being done mid-season just always makes the FIA look bush league, in my opninion. If there’s a single team that they’re going for, do so. But, changing the rules for all, in midstream, just rates as amateur.

    I guess the FIA has been out of the press for a bit and wanted to get themselves back in the news.

  17. FRIC technology is nothing new.

    Had hydrostatic suspension on my Mini back in the 70’s πŸ™‚

    Cheers,

    Steve

  18. Wow ! Who would have thought that the system used on your old 1960’s Austin-Morris-MG-Riley-Wolseley 1100/1300 would be reinvented for Formula 1 ! It’s called hydrolastic and latterly turned into hydrogas on Allegro’s and MGF’s. It’s neither new nor innovative therefore.

  19. Merc have been running this system since their return and it was largely to blame for their tyre wear woes during the last couple of seasons. After three years of development and lots of pain this is how the sport, could, reward them.

  20. Joe I read on another site that this is all a power play. Jean Todt wants to get rid of Charlie Whiting because he was given a long contract just before Max Mosely left the FIA and it’s soon up for renewal and also he’s seen as Bernie’s mate so they have decided to so this now for purely political reasons and nothing really to do with the teams or the racing.

    Is this just a monkey with a typewriter spouting out rubbish or do you feel that this could be possible? It’s not a site I trust very highly whereas your opinion i thoroughly respect.

    1. Such things are possible but. There is nothing to suggest this is the case. Hence I have not reported it as such.

  21. To review: They want to ban a simple and effective technology that worked (for a while) on the original Mini’s more than half-a-century ago, yet they continue to encourage the mega-expensive ultra-fine-development of aerodynamic parts that have exactly nothing to do with anything on the planet other than current F1 regs.

    You couldn’t make this stuff up…

    1. Surely that should be “nothing happens in a vacuum apart from effects covered by Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. And, not only can you not see it, if you do observe it, the act of observing it will change its state”

      Not as snappy as as John’s aphorism, I’d admit.

      πŸ˜‰

  22. All the real Motor Racing fans attention suddenly turns to changed cars ……… 1. WHICH WILL BE DOWNRIGHT DANGEROUS as the tyres will be severely compromised 2. Deflect attention 3. Keep F1 people talking about F1 4.Stir the order of things without a care …………….. Doesn’t seem to have the hand of a Charlie or FIA instigated ruling……. Now I wonder who else ????

  23. and this 45 year old ruling about moveable aerodynamic devices is to combat flimsy wings and devices like a Chaparral 2E or 2F or Lotus 78/9 or Brabham Fan Car not improvements but the here we have F1 outlawing an Allegro’s suspension or a modern Mercedes or Porsche with their moveable wings at high speed to improve safety. ……… Just what is the matter with F1 …….. it’s so far away from proper development……. It would be laughable if it wasn’t sinful.

  24. Oops – Finger problems 35yr old ruling ……… Oh and just to improve the show lets introduce a moveable aerodynamic device which only works behind another car – It’s a Series of Contradictions ……..
    – Perhaps give added wing angles if behind another car.
    – Perhaps only allow red cars to have FRIC
    – Perhaps we should all spend $500.000 on each front seven section wing which moves perfectly as you turn a tiny handle to increase or decrease the degrees of angle of downforce.

  25. I did not see the FIA suddenly deciding that exhaust blown diffusers or Coanda-type exhausts were possibly illegal over the last several seasons, even though they were quite clearly ingenious attempts to circumvent the rules that limited downforce. However, the FIA was quite happy to step in a few seasons ago and stop the use of mass dampers, which Renault had pioneered and which other teams were busy adopting and refining at the time.
    For rules enforcement processes to be credible, they need to be (a) consistent and (b) transparent. This latest communication from the FIA fulfills neither of those criteria. It almost seems like an old-fashioned shakedown threat (imagine a Cockney voice saying “nice little suspension workaround you got there…be a shame if something was to happen to it…”). There is no explanation of why a suspension device that nobody was publicly concerned about is suddenly under the microscope.

    1. Unfortunately the rules are very often written from the wrong end. in an attempt to ban known devices or systems, whereas the real intent is to ban the effect of same.
      Revert to proof of compliance by submitting team, as per the old road car homologation procedures. ie You show me how this complies to each part of each rule and prove it to me. I may challenge your method of proof and insist upon a different test.

  26. I see it reported elsewhere that some teams (presumably the ones to whom it is most advantage) have been experimenting with a FRIC-free design already. The same source suggested that it would be almost impossible to simply take the FRIC system out of the existing suspension as it is an integral part of the design and there would not be anywhere of sufficient stength to mount the static components necessary without a major redign of the back end of the car.

    It’s nice(!) to see that for once the FIA have actually learned something about dealing with the teams – instead of just implementing the rule change, they now say it will be implemented “unless ALL the teams agree it should not be” knowing full well the teams can never even agree what day of the week it is! Not our fault guv, WE gave you the choice and YOU lot messed it up … Now if only they could do the same with CVC and Bernie!

  27. Funny old thing, innovation. Following the ban on active suspension, I designed two different types of passive ride control, the type of which the fuss is now about. At the time, no-one wanted anything to do with it. Some, thought it was too simple, while others thought it followed on too closely on the ban on active, and would attract too much attention. So, for ages, it seemed consigned to that great waste bin of things nobody wanted. Until fairly recently, when everybody wanted a piece of it. As I said, funny old thing, innovation…

    1. Interesting. Poster to another blog/forum said much the same, last season I think, his was specifically Ferrari linked. RTTE returns?

  28. One of Tyrrell’s inventions, at least they were the first to use it but never got it working properly.
    1995 Tyrrell-Yamaha 023 with Hydrolink, the latter removed halfway the season.

    The days when the independents came up with great innovation.

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