LONDON, April 7 (Reuters) - Formula One’s governing body has written to teams warning them any system that adjusts a car’s suspension and ride height between qualifying and the race is illegal.
The move follows speculation some teams have been using devices or systems that give cars an aerodynamic advantage when qualifying light on fuel and then ensure the car has sufficient ground clearance when the tank is subsequently filled for the race distance.
A spokesman said on Wednesday that the International Automobile Federation (FIA) had written to the teams to clarify the rules.
“Any system, device or procedure, the purpose and /or the effect of which is to change the set up of the suspension whilst the car is under parc ferme conditions will be deemed to contravene Article 34.5 of the F1 Sporting Regulations,” he said.
The letter to teams added that the FIA believed “any self levelling damper system is likely to contravene (article) 3.15 of the technical regulations.”
Parc ferme refers to the period after qualifying and before a race when the cars are effectively off-limits to mechanics.
Article 34.5 states that a driver must start the race from the pit lane if any changes are made to the suspension of his car while it is held under parc ferme. Article 3.15 refers to aerodynamics.
McLaren suggested at the Australian Grand Prix last month that Red Bull, one-two winners in Malaysia last weekend, were using some sort of ride height control system. Red Bull have denied the accusation.
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh also said in Melbourne that his engineers were racing to develop a system of their own and hoped to have it ready by next week’s race in China.
“I think it looks like Red Bull and some other cars are able to run lower in qualifying than you would expect if they are then going to fill the car with fuel afterwards,” said Whitmarsh.
“Frankly a few months ago if the engineers had come to me and said: ‘We’re going to design this system,’ I would have said: ‘Actually, I don’t think it’s permissible’.
“There’s some evidence that perhaps such systems are considered legal and if they are then we’re going to get one as quick as we can,” he added.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said at Sepang that his team would protest any rival using such a system.
Active ride systems, pioneered by the original Lotus team and then used to great effect by Williams, have been banned under regulations since 1993.
Editing by Alison Wildey; To query anything on this story email email@example.com