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Stewards give green light to Renault dampers 28 Jul 2006

Renault R26 front wing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, German Grand Prix, Preparations, Hockenheim, Germany, 27 July 2006

Renault have been cleared to run their controversial ‘mass dampers’ at Hockenheim, after the FIA tried to ban them prior to the event.

The dampers are sited, in Renault’s case, in the nose of the R26 and were introduced last year. They have been raced on the R26s all of this season, and Ferrari and Red Bull Racing are also known to have used them. Up to seven teams are believed to have experimented with them. Their purpose is to help the engineers optimise the tyre contact patches by neutralising the car’s vertical movement in reaction to bumps.

The FIA had contended that, under Article 3.15 of the Formula One Technical Regulations, mass dampers constituted a movable means of controlling the aerodynamics and were therefore illegal. Renault disagreed and the matter was investigated by the FIA’s own stewards, Tony Scott Andrews, Rafael Sierra and Waltraud Wuensch.

They concluded that mass dampers have less influence on the aerodynamics than would changes to the conventional dampers (as far as making the suspension settings stiffer, for example), and that since conventional dampers are not considered to be movable aerodynamic components, then neither are mass dampers. The stewards suggested that, in comparison to conventional dampers, the effect of mass dampers on aerodynamic performance was “negligible”.

The FIA are believed to want mass dampers outlawed for 2007, and have confirmed to all of the teams their intention to appeal the decision of their own stewards. That means, in theory at least, that if Renault were to run with mass dampers this weekend the subsequent race result could later be threatened if the FIA’s appeal is upheld. However, in light of this, Renault are expected to suspend use of the dampers until after the appeal hearing.