Martin Whitmarsh is concerned about Red Bull's innovation
The team principal for McLaren, Martin Whitmarsh, has questioned the system that Red Bull operate to keep their cars’ ride height as low as possible in low-fuel qualifying, thereby giving them a performance advantage.
Since refuelling is banned this year, the full tanks at the start of the race means that the cars will be much lower to the ground, then rise slowly as the fuel burns off. This increase in ride height results in a proportional decrease in downforce and grip as the race continues, and in qualifying. Whitmarsh believes that Red Bull are operating a system that allows their ride height to adjust itself, which means the car can run lower to the ground in qualifying, giving them an advantage against their rivals.
Whitmarsh thinks that the RB6 cars operate a ride height controlling structure, which he previously believed to be illegal in the technical regulations. He said:
"There's evidence that there are ride-height control systems which many people thought weren't permissible. It
looks like Red Bull and some other cars are able to run lower in qualifying than you would expect, if they're
then going to fill the car with fuel afterwards."
The idea of the suspension or a mechanism that controls the car’s ride height, like Red Bull are doing, had originated from active suspension, the innovation in the 1980’s and 1990’s that kept the car flat and level through bumps. However, it is unclear if Red Bull’s system is illegal, or if there is a system at all. However, Whitmarsh implied that the system was legal, by saying:
"As you can imagine, we're working quite hard on those systems now. The original rulings suggested such systems
wouldn't be allowed on cars but we're seeing some which seem to have them."
If McLaren are working on their own system, then they must believe that the innovation is legal. However, it is still unclear how much of an advantage the Red Bulls have gotten from this innovation. If it is a large advantage, then expect to see the other teams start to claw away at the team’s lead in the technical sense.