A detailed look at Lotus' reative ride height innovation
The must-have innovation of 2012 has been leaked in recent days, with Lotus Renault reported to be running a “reactive ride height” device on their cars.
The system was spotted by seasoned technical journalist Giorgio Piola at the Abu Dhabi young driver test in November, and reports suggest that this device had been given the green light by the FIA as early as January 2011.
The objective of this innovation is to stabilise the front end of the car under braking, which generally dips by several centimetres. With a small hydraulic device in the brake cowling, the car can lift itself to counteract the dip under braking. This ensures a consistent generation of downforce from the front wing.
It is also possible that the reverse situation could apply under acceleration.
One of the smaller technical changes that was passed over by many – including myself – was that the maximum height of the nosecone was lowered from 62mm to 55mm. This has, in part, prompted this new design from Lotus.
Gazetta Dello Sport suggested that this device was to be operated by the driver via a pedal, similar to the F-duct. However, Article 3.15 of the F1 Technical Regulations seems to have covered that loophole:
"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
Seeing as the system has already been approved by the FIA, it would be assumed that the device is operated by the car automatically and not the driver.
Predictably, many of the top teams have already begun to research and design their own version of this ride height stabiliser.