An early 2012 advantage for the former Renault squad? (LAT photo)
Lotus' rivals look set to be forced to copy its innovative reactive ride height system ahead of the 2012 season, with F1's governing body agreeing the concept is totally within the rules.
There has been much intrigue about the mechanism that Lotus (formerly Lotus Renault) was reported to have tried out at the Abu Dhabi young driver test last year. The mechanical system helps maintain a standard ride height during braking, when often the front of the car would dip down.
Rivals teams are understood to have looked into the system and its legality over the past few days, with a report in Gazzetta dello Sport this week suggesting it was driver adjusted by the use of a pedal in the cockpit. However, if the drivers were changing the ride height of the cars under braking then that would be a breach of the rules.
Article 3.15 of the F1 Technical Regulations states: "With the exception of the parts necessary for the adjustment described in Article 3.18 [the DRS], any car system, device or procedure which uses driver movement as a means of altering the aerodynamic characteristics of the car is prohibited."
However, the adjustment to the ride height – which improves aerodynamic performance and stability on the Lotus under braking – does not come from the driver. Instead, it is reactive to brake torque and is linked directly to the suspension, so cannot be classified as a movable aerodynamic device in the way that independent mass dampers were.
The fact that the driver is not involved, and that the system is a part of the suspension, means it complies fully with the F1 regulations.
AUTOSPORT reports that Lotus has been in liaison with the FIA throughout the development of the brake system, having first been proposed in 2010 and been given an official green light by the governing as long ago as January last year. With the FIA happy that the brake system is legal, it means that its main rivals will now have to propose their own systems to the governing body if they want to adopt such a concept for the forthcoming season.
It is believed that at least one front-running team has already submitted plans for a similar ride-height adjustment device to be used in 2012.