Lotus look to have stolen an early march on their rivals following speculation that the outfit has developed an adjustable ride-height system.
The system, which it’s reported is driver controlled via a switch in the cockpit, would maintain the ride-height of the car under braking and acceleration to ensure the car is running at the optimum height at all times.
Giorgio Piola, a well known and respected technical journalist, reported the findings following the Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi back in November.
Such a system would allow the driver to lower the car under acceleration, i.e. when the forward motion raises the front of the car, reducing the front-wing efficieny, and then raise it under braking, again ensuring the front-wing remains at a constant height, allowing the outfit to run their cars much lower than those without such a system.
With the ban on refuelling, getting the ride-height correct can make a difference in the region of two to three tenths per lap. As the cars start the race with full tanks (about 155kg), the engineers must take this variable into account when setting the ride-height to ensure the load doesn’t compress the suspension, which in turn would see the car bottoming out and wearing on the plank.
As the fuel reduces, so does the weight, and the car raises as it becomes lighter. This increases the ride-height and reduces the level of downforce. If a team can develop a system which ensures the height remains constant under braking/acceleration and throughout the race, as it’s believed Lotus have, then a considerable amount of time could be gained.
The system is likely to cause some discussion amongst the teams as the pre-season ramps up and could once again, as with the F-duct, prompt a development race as other teams attempt to copy it.
Though the legality of such a system could be called into question following the F-duct ban which was deemed a ‘moveable aerodynamic device’ – the proposed Lotus system works in a similar way as both are driver controlled.
Update: Ferrari has contacted the FIA about the rumoured system to clarify whether such a concept would be legal, team principal Stefano Domenicali confirmed on Wednesday.