FRIC-y Friday

Hey Guys, I thought I’d write my first ‘technical’ F1 post about the hot topic of FRIC. If you want to show off to your mates (or your less-than-interested mother like I do), then have a butcher’s at this, hopefully it’ll make sense.

So if you don’t follow the technical changes that happen in F1 (which is arguably more than half of the whole sport, but that’s a different blog…), FRIC is the latest ‘fad’ that has been banned in a misguided effort to ‘cost-cut’ in the sport. To understand why the FIA really made this decision, we must hark back to the days of Senna/Prost, when Williams were the magicians that held the secret to the dark art of Active Suspension… *cue eerie music*

You know what to do with that big fat… Active Suspension?

So in the Early 90s, the cars in F1 were subject to a computer controlled system that essentially stabilised the car through corners, which allowed for more downforce, ergo more speed, ergo more wins. Now, this groundbreaking technology (which has remained prominent in road cars from the Nissan GTR to the latest all-terrain Land Rover settings) was banned by the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile: the governing body of F1) as it was sensed that it removed driver skill from the finely balanced equation that made the sport what it was. Williams were outraged – rightly so, as the team that had developed the best system, only to have it outlawed – and the sport lost one of its most innovative technologies.

Jump back to today, and the system that has replaced Active Suspension is a analogue version that utilises the fluid mechanics of the suspension dampers to alter ride characteristics on the fly: FRIC (Front to Rear Inter-Connected) Suspension. I’ve drawn some diagrams to help illustrate how it works (please bear with the artistic talent, its the first time I’ve drawn in about 3 months)

So first, we will look at how the car performs under braking (and from this, acceleration). If you imagine driving down the road at 40 mph in a 30 mph zone, and your friend see the speed camera, he will slam the brakes on, and you are thrown forward due to the change in momentum. The car under goes a similar motion, only it tilts, with the load being absorbed by the shock absorbers (or suspension as i’ll refer to it). Now, look at the diagram below:

IMG_20140718_203305

Heave: The effect of braking upon a car’s pitch

We can see that the front suspension will be compressed, whilst the rear will extend. To counter this, the pressure from the top of both the front and rear are inter-connected, so that the pressure from the front is applied to the rear, reducing the effects of braking (or heave). The same applies for the bottom half of the damper.

Now, although the name suggests only front and rear linkage, the roll characteristics are also controlled. Looking at the diagrams below will explain how the process works for horizontal tilt. Note how the cylinders are inversely linked, so as to harden the outer suspension as well as prevent the inner suspension from extending, thus giving a ‘flatter’ cornering position.

IMG_20140718_214309

IMG_20140718_214330 Such a professional drawing… Anybody would think I’m doing a degree in this…

Not only do these modifications give a flatter, quicker corner, but the complex aerodynamic packages on modern F1 cars are very sensitive to any disturbance along the floor of the car. The elimination of the previous unknowns of pitch and yaw under braking, accelerating and cornering, would provide teams with a large advantage over rivals. The banning of this system, however, has done nothing to weaken the superiority of the Mercedes team, and this would lead me to believe that the team has a much more mechanical-heavy package than other teams, and only investigated FRIC as an ‘afterthought’.

So, when you’re sat down on Sunday watching the Grand Prix, be sure to tell your family/friends/significant others about this, and I’ll even let you pretend you knew it yourself; our little secret, eh?

Cheers,
Pragmatic Engineer

PS, share this with your mates, I’d quite like to do more of these kind of articles

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