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McLaren to chase 'illegal' advantage

28 March 2010


McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh has revealed that the Woking-based squad could introduce a modern version of 'active ride' suspension as early as the Chinese Grand Prix - despite previously thinking that such technology would be illegal.

Talking to the BBC, Whitmarsh admitted that his initial belief would have been to have avoided such a system but, after claiming that Red Bull Racing is already employing something similar, he feels happy for his team to push ahead with its design and development.

Observers have remarked on RBR's ability to seemingly run its cars lower to the ground on light fuel loads - a major advantage in qualifying, where Sebastian Vettel has taken two pole positions in as many races - and, while questioning the legality of any device that enables it to do so, rivals teams are now having to investigate means of following suit.

While full 'active ride' suspension has been banned since the 1993 season - after Williams dominated successive world championships using the technology - a ratchet-based system would be deemed legal under the current regulations, and Red Bull has clearly had a qualifying advantage. Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber admitted to messing up his qualifying lap in Bahrain, while the best McLaren has been able to do is fourth on the grid at each of the first two races.

Red Bull Racing has, naturally, denied that the ability to adjust its suspension exists on the RB6, but Whitmarsh insists that McLaren will be pressing ahead with its own thinking, with the aim of having it running by the Chinese Grand Prix in mid-April.

"Frankly, a few months ago, if the engineers had come to me and said 'we're going to design this system', I would have said 'actually, I don't think it's permissible'," Whitmarsh told reporters in Melbourne, "But it looks like Red Bull and some other cars are able to run lower in qualifying than you would expect if they are then going to fill the car with fuel afterwards.

"Thus there's some evidence that such systems are considered legal and, if they are, then we're going to get one as quick as we can. It's an opportunity for us to have a look at it and, as you can imagine, we're working quite hard on those systems now."

Although Red Bull's system, if it does exist, would be hidden from view - unlike McLaren's equally-controversial 'F-vent', which caused consternation at the season-opening Bahrain GP two weeks ago - rival teams have the knowledge and experience within their design teams to come up with something that achieves a similar effect. While the F-vent has now been generally accepted as being 'a clever piece of design' - a phrase, ironically used by RBR boss Christian Horner - the ride height debate could become 2010's version of that which surrounded the double diffuser last season.


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