FRIC: Demystifying Formula 1’s Latest Controversy

By Hillary Chinyere
Harare, 17 July 2014, 15.00 CAT.

Mukakati Fric

A close-up on the suspension of one of the Formula 1 cars that use FRIC.

Formula1 teams were served with a technical directive from the FIA’s race director Charlie Whiting after the British Grand Prix, with regards to the legality of the Front-and-Rear Interconnected Suspension (FRIC) systems employed in the majority of the cars. This is a result of the belief that FRIC systems being currently used may be illegal and giving some cars an unfair advantage.

What is FRIC?
This technology was introduced to Formula 1 by Mercedes in 2011 and have been perfecting it ever since. Due to high speeds of F1 cars, something has to keep the cars ‘down’ and maintain their stability as the cars usually reach top speeds which exceed the maximum take-off speed of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. Therefore, the ability to create downforce is a crucial quality of an F1 car. However, as a result of a number of regulations introduced recently, the cars have lost a considerable amount of downforce and teams always innovate to get around new regulations.

As the car brakes, enters or leaves a corner it undergoes quite a few changes regarding its stability and ride height and a substantial amount of downforce is lost as a result. If an engineer could make the car more stable in the midst of those changing dynamics and fix the ride height through those manoeuvres, he would enable the car to get a competitive edge. Such an innovation produces a stable ride height through a manoeuvre (not that an F1 car is all about comfort), optimise aerodynamics and above all, maintain downforce. FRIC is a system that links the front and rear suspension of a car via hydraulics to achieve the effect described above, in addition to giving better drivability to the car.

Why Teams Use FRIC
Earlier versions gained polarity in 1993 and amoung the cars equipped with the technology was Luigi Martini’s M193 which had a passive hydraulic system. The modern complex interlinked suspension helped the Lotus’ E21 and Mercedes’ W04 to be competitive cars in 2013, two years after its introduction. First of all, only the teams’ developmental and garage personnel are privy to the specific details of their respective technologies the account of benefits given here is not exhaustive. FRIC is sometimes used to minimise the variations in height between the front and rear of the car during braking and acceleration and thus promote a more uniform tyre wear. One advantage of FRIC is the way it allows independent control of the car’s suspension components enables the car’s handling to be adapted to individual tracks with great precision.

Aftermath of the ‘Ban’
McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull are said to have removed the system from their cars in preparation for the German Grand Prix. According to Germany’s Auto Motor and Sport, Force India is “leaving key developments in the cupboard” until the legality of FRIC is clarified.

“McLaren does not currently intend to run a FRIC suspension [sic] system at the German Grand Prix,” said a McLaren spokesperson.

Caterham is believe to be planning on lodging a complaint against teams who will be using FRIC systems during the German Grand Prix. As we stand, no one really knows if the technology will be allowed for use at

Hokenheimring tomorrow. It also remains to be seen if Mercedes will retain their form after removing FRIC from Lewis Hamilton and NicoRosberg’sF1W05s as it has been rumoured to be its Holy Grail. When shall we have such technologies on our Donnybrook track?

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