World motor sport governing body the FIA has announced that any form of ride height control system is illegal in Formula 1. The announcement came after rumors surfaced in the paddock which suggested that the Red Bull team was using such a device in its RB6 Formula 1 car.
Apparently the device would enable a car to run closer to the ground during qualifying which helps improve downforce. With this year’s ban of mid-race refueling and the fact that the cars will have to be in “parc ferme” between after qualifying and before the race (during a “parc ferme”, mechanics are not allowed to work on the car), such a device can be very helpful.
For example, a car will run light during qualifying (with low fuel) and run closer to the ground to help improve downforce, hence generate a quicker lap time. After qualifying, the car will be fueled to the brim for Sunday’s race. This will make the car heavier and the ride height will be reduced further, to a level which is too low. To counter this, the ride height control system will give more clearance.
Red Bull’s boss Christian Horner recently revealed that the team is not running such a system. Ride height control devices in Formula 1 were actually pioneered by the Lotus team (not this year’s entrant) and Williams also used it. It was then banned in 1993. Now that the FIA is clear about this matter, it will be interesting to look at Red Bull’s qualifying performance at the Chinese Grand Prix.