The Front and Rear Inter-Connected hydraulic systems [or FRIC] used by many teams on the grid is set to be outlawed in Formula 1, following an investigation by FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting. According to Autosport, Whiting has published a note to teams which says that the way the suspension systems help control the pitch and the roll of the cars through the high speed corners, could be in breach of article 3.15 of the technical regulations, which relates to movable aerodynamic devices.
Specifically, Section B of the regulation states that any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance “must be rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car (rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom).”
The FRIC system uses hydraulics to allow the front and rear suspension to maintain a constant ride height, giving the driver better stability and drivability as he is able to eliminate the compromise engineers face when setting up the suspension, and allowing the driver to run for a softer suspension setup as opposed to a stiffer one.
What the teams do is run pipes along the entire chassis, which are connected to the front and rear of the suspension system, then use the inertia of the car under braking and loading to transfer hydraulic fluid across these pipes, in order to ensure stability in crucial areas such as acceleration, braking, and cornering.
This concept as we know it was first introduced by Mercedes in 2012 and is said to be used by both them and Lotus, who were exploring the system for use alongside its failed attempt at creating a passive DRS system throughout the 2012 and 2013 season. At the time it was introduced, the FIA deemed it legal because it was passive rather than an aerodynamic device engaged by the driver, however Charlie Whiting believes that the transfer of fluid between the pipes is not in accordance to the aforementioned regulation.
A mid-season regulation change of this degree is a lot like the blown diffusers
As such, the FIA has asked teams before the German Grand Prix to vote in favour of delaying the ban until 2015. Such a vote would have to get unanimous agreement from the teams, otherwise it might mean that cars that run the system will be deemed illegal as of the German GP weekend. With Whiting also calling into question the legality of the system, it also allows teams to protest the race result.
Of course a mid-season regulation change of this degree is a lot like the blown diffusers. Whilst it doesn’t form the basis of the cars aerodynamic foundation, it contributes a lot to the aerodynamic grip and drivability the car has, and is certainly not easy to integrate. Teams could contest the findings of the FIA, and argue that the system itself works much like the other hydraulic systems on the car and is rigidly secured through the pipes ran along the chassis.
With that in mind, depending on how many teams now have the system on their cars, we will probably see a big argument form over the course of the German Grand Prix weekend between the teams and the FIA over whether or not it should be banned, and if such a ban could be put in place for the remainder of the season.