Mercedes, Ferrari among F1 2024 teams using key Red Bull RB20 suspension trick – report

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen on the approach to the hairpin in Monaco

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Ferrari and Mercedes are among four teams to have adopted a clever Red Bull suspension trick for the F1 2024 season, it has been claimed, with Ferrari’s solution described as “even better than the original.”

As explained by last year, suspension has become one of the most critical areas of an F1 car since the sport’s ground effect regulations were introduced in 2022, crucial to the relationship between the track surface and the car’s underbody.

Ferrari, Mercedes among F1 2024 teams adopting Red Bull suspension trick

Red Bull‘s anti-dive, anti-squat suspension setup was lauded as a key component of the dominant car of F1 2023 as the team produced the most successful season in history, winning 21 of a possible 22 races as Max Verstappen eased to a third successive World Championship.

Indeed, it is thought that Adrian Newey – who studied ground effect aerodynamics during his time at university – personally designed the suspension for Red Bull’s original ground effect car in F1 2022, laying the foundation for the team’s astronomical recent success.

Red Bull were alone in 2022 in producing a car which lowered its rear end until it stalled at maximum load on the straights, resulting in a huge top-speed advantage over the opposition, with the car’s DRS system designed around optimising this effect.

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Now in the third year of the existing rules, German publication Auto Motor und Sport has claimed that Red Bull’s rivals Ferrari and Mercedes – as well as Haas and RB – have cottoned on to the trend.

The Ferrari solution, the report claims, is said to be an advance on Red Bull’s original design, with customers Haas – currently sitting seventh in the Constructors’ standings after an encouraging start to F1 2024 – running the system since last month’s Miami Grand Prix.

A switch to Red Bull-esque suspension has also been cited for the dramatic late-season recovery in F1 2023, with RB (then AlphaTauri) finishing eighth having been rock bottom until the closing weeks of the season.

Swapping from old-fashioned disc springs to easier-to-adjust torsion bars has been central to the breakthrough by Red Bull’s rivals, with one unnamed team principal claiming a change of just “half a millimetre” in setup has unlocked vast swathes of performance.

The move has appeared particularly profitable for Ferrari, who claimed their second victory of the F1 2024 season at the recent Monaco Grand Prix with Charles Leclerc as Verstappen could only manage sixth in the Red Bull.

While heavier than conventional suspension setups, the Red Bull-style solution allows for greater optimisation of the rear ride height across different speed ranges over the course of a lap.

If mastered, AMuS claim that the suspension trick can ensure that the rear of the car is relatively high in slower corners and can absorb a circuit’s kerbs and bumps more effectively.

Leclerc used it to good effect in Monaco, while Verstappen was left likening his RB20 to a go-kart, telling media including that the car was struggling with kerbs, bumps and camber changes.

In an interview with AMuS last month, Andrew Shovlin, the Mercedes trackside engineering director, described ground clearance at the rear as “the biggest compromise” for teams in the ground effect generation compared to previous eras.

He said: “With these cars, you have to live with more compromises than before and the biggest compromise is the height at the rear.

“But because these cars produce their maximum downforce when they drive as close as possible to the road, you have to go hard with the suspension. This affects the handling.

“In the past, with more suspension travel, we had more options for balancing the car.

“The car was so high at the rear when stationary that it would straighten out when driving. This allowed us to control how the underbody worked with the front wing setting. That gave us a lot of leeway to tune the balance over a lap.

“Now everything is more limited and there are more compromises in this narrow window. For us, it feels like it’s harder to find a balance, no matter what track we’re driving on.

“You have to separate the suspension travel and the suspension through the tyres. As you have to drive the car very hard today, there is hardly any difference between one and the other.

“In the past, the rear was set to a ground clearance of between 140 and 180 millimetres. As a result, the car had a good 100 millimetres of freedom of movement over a lap, and there were still moments when it hit the road. Of these 100 millimetres, around 80 were accounted for by the suspension travel.

“Today, we don’t even get that 80 millimetres of ground clearance. It’s usually between 60 and 70 millimetres.

“The ground clearance is relatively simple. You set it as low as you can reasonably justify. You know your maximum downforce and therefore know how much leeway you need to give yourself so that the car doesn’t constantly touch down.

“On the other hand, you don’t want to go too high at the rear to avoid losing too much downforce. That’s one of the first variables you determine.

“But it’s not rocket science. The harder job is to get the mechanical balance right so that you have a good platform for the aerodynamic balance.”

It is said that McLaren, Aston Martin, Williams, Sauber and Alpine are either running more conventional suspension setups or are experimenting with more adaptable dampers and springs with a view to adopting the new solution.

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