F1 Racing (UK) - - INSIDER - PAT SY­MONDS @F1rac­ing_­mag face­book.com/ f1rac­ing­mag

It’s not of­ten that tech­ni­cal ar­gu­ments are so long-lived in For­mula 1, but this year two sub­jects have had a longevity be­yond the norm. In the past dis­putes have been set­tled quickly or, at worst, brought be­fore the FIA In­ter­na­tional Court of Ap­peal by way of a challenge to a de­ci­sion of the stew­ards. The latter ac­tion in­volves a route that might take a lit­tle longer, but pro­vides an au­thor­i­ta­tive fi­nal­ity to the mat­ter.

The first of the two dis­putes con­cerned sus­pen­sion. Be­fore this sea­son started, the FIA had de­cided to clamp down on the ever-grow­ing com­plex­i­ties of sus­pen­sion sys­tems that were sup­posed to be pas­sive. The ge­n­e­sis of this goes all the way back to 1993 when the FIA de­clared that the ac­tive sus­pen­sion sys­tems then in use were be­ing de­signed with the pri­mary pur­pose of aug­ment­ing the cars’ aero­dy­namic per­for­mance rather than pro­vid­ing in­su­la­tion from the un­du­la­tions of the track sur­face. As such, they could be con­sid­ered mov­ing aero­dy­namic de­vices, a con­cept em­bod­ied in the reg­u­la­tions and specif­i­cally dis­al­lowed.

The prob­lem is that in any walk of life knowl­edge can­not be ‘un-learned’ and, very of­ten, if the sim­ple and log­i­cal route to a so­lu­tion is removed for what­ever rea­son, pro­tag­o­nists of the art will find an al­ter­na­tive that will un­doubt­edly be more com­plex. And so it was with these sus­pen­sion sys­tems. Ini­tially the con­cen­tra­tion was on com­plex hy­draulic damper valv­ing and rel­a­tively sim­ple non-lin­ear stiff­ness fea­tures that gave some ad­di­tional plat­form con­trol over and above that which had been em­ployed by the teams in ear­lier years.

Later came a cou­ple of in­ter­est­ing de­vel­op­ments. The first was the tuned mass damper em­ployed by Re­nault in 2005 and sub­se­quently banned. This was a re-en­gi­neer­ing of a very old con­cept. Around the same time, Mal­colm Smith at Cam­bridge Univer­sity con­ceived and de­vel­oped a con­cept known as an in­erter. This was an amaz­ing piece of orig­i­nal think­ing: a con­ven­tional damper pro­vides a damp­ing force that is pro­por­tional to the ve­loc­ity of the sus­pen­sion de­flec­tion, while in con­trast the in­erter pro­vides an ad­di­tional force that is pro­por­tional to the ac­cel­er­a­tion seen across the sus­pen­sion. This may sound triv­ial, but it al­lowed con­trol that had pre­vi­ously only been avail­able with ac­tive sus­pen­sions.

The in­erter is still com­mon­place in F1, but it had been sup­ple­mented with ev­er­in­creas­ing com­plex­i­ties of hy­draulic logic ap­plied to the sys­tems. The essence of these was to use the move­ment of the sus­pen­sion to dis­place fluid through a se­ries of ori­fices. The way these work is com­plex, but can be thought of as the con­joined dou­ble sy­ringes you might use to dis­pense epoxy ad­he­sives. If you squeeze these gen­tly, equal vol­umes of hard­ener and resin are dis­pensed. Try to dis­place the plunger more rapidly and the more vis­cous resin will re­strict the flow.

This is anal­o­gous to an ac­tu­a­tor full of oil con­nected to the sus­pen­sion with two flow paths out of it, one through a small ori­fice and one through a large one. If we dis­place the sus­pen­sion slowly, as may hap­pen when aero­dy­namic load com­presses the sus­pen­sion of an ac­cel­er­at­ing ve­hi­cle, then the flow out of the two ori­fices will be equal. Com­press it more quickly, for ex­am­ple in a braking event, and the flow will favour the large ori­fice. If we now feed these two flows into a con­trol valve we have count­less pos­si­bil­i­ties to use this dif­fer­en­tial flow. An ex­am­ple might be to pi­lot an ad­di­tional valve that might al­ter roll stiff­ness at one end of the car. It’s not an easy con­cept to ex­plain, and nor does it lead to an easy sys­tem to im­ple­ment, but if done suc­cess­fully it can be pretty pow­er­ful in im­prov­ing the per­for­mance of the ve­hi­cle.

These de­vel­op­ments have led to four sep­a­rate tech­ni­cal di­rec­tives be­ing is­sued this year by the FIA to re­strict po­ten­tial in this area and pro­mote more sim­ple


and con­ven­tional sus­pen­sions. The in­tro­duc­tion of these clar­i­fi­ca­tions are thought to be part of the rea­son for the equal­i­sa­tion of per­for­mance be­tween Fer­rari and Mercedes in 2017.

The sec­ond long-run­ning saga is that of oil burn­ing. The modern For­mula 1 en­gine is un­usual in that its per­for­mance is lim­ited by the amount of fuel in­tro­duced to it. For many years the lim­i­ta­tion of race en­gine per­for­mance has been the breath­ing of the en­gine and hence the amount of air that can be in­tro­duced.

Now en­gine oil as we know it is not the ideal fuel for any en­gine, but for­mu­lat­ing an oil that has cer­tain volatile ad­di­tives that ei­ther add chem­i­cal en­ergy to the com­bus­tion process, or, more likely, limit the propen­sity for un­con­trolled com­bus­tion, al­lows more power to be ex­tracted.

In­tro­duc­ing this oil into the com­bus­tion cham­ber is a dif­fi­cult process and it’s un­likely it is done by flow past the pis­ton rings. Far more likely is that it is done by al­low­ing oil-laden crank­case gases to enter the en­gine air in­let via the crank­case breather, or by al­low­ing the con­trolled leak­age of oil through the com­pres­sor side of the tur­bocharger bear­ing into the in­let tract. Ei­ther way, in a sport in which in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ment is the key to suc­cess, such small en­hance­ments make all the dif­fer­ence.

Again, the FIA has taken a dim view of this line of devel­op­ment. It goes against the grain of putting a fuel-flow limit in place. Fur­ther tech­ni­cal di­rec­tives have been is­sued to rein in the prac­tice by lim­it­ing the oil that can be burned to an amount that may be con­sid­ered rea­son­able for a rac­ing en­gine. They fur­ther de­fine what con­sti­tutes an oil, the pri­mary pur­poses of which should be for lu­bri­ca­tion and cool­ing.

The tech­ni­cal­i­ties of these two dis­puted ar­eas are un­likely to be of much in­ter­est to the ma­jor­ity of the sport’s fans. So it’s here that F1 must de­fine its ob­jec­tives. F1 sets itself apart from the plethora of con­trolled sin­gle-sup­ply for­mu­lae by in­sist­ing that en­trants be con­struc­tors and al­low­ing tech­ni­cal ex­cel­lence to be a per­for­mance dif­fer­en­tia­tor. The real test for fu­ture reg­u­la­tion is to let this re­main the case, but for tech­ni­cal ex­cel­lence to be un­der­stand­able and avail­able rather than overly com­plex, ir­rel­e­vant and in the cus­tody of the se­cret so­ci­ety that F1 en­gi­neers are so keen to pro­mote.

Mercedes and Fer­rari have found com­plex solutions to the clam­p­down on sup­pos­edly pas­sive sus­pen­sion

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