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Renault to use mass dampers in Hungary 01 Aug 2006

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R26.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, German Grand Prix, Race, Hockenheim, Germany, 30 July 2006

Renault have confirmed that they will run their mass damper system at this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix. The move follows notification from the FIA that teams who choose to use the controversial technology before a hearing into the matter has been held will not be penalised.

Mass dampers were introduced last year to help neutralise the car’s vertical movement in reaction to bumps. Renault are believed to have pioneered their use, but Ferrari, Red Bull Racing and up to seven other teams have apparently experimented with them.

The saga over their legality began last week when the FIA stated that, under Article 3.15 of the Formula One Technical Regulations, mass dampers constituted a movable means of controlling aerodynamics and were therefore illegal. However during the race weekend, the FIA’s own stewards concluded that in comparison to conventional dampers, the effect of mass dampers on aerodynamic performance was ‘negligible’.

Despite the Hockenheim stewards' decision, Renault decided to remove the mass dampers for the German Grand Prix rather then risk being punished retrospectively by the FIA. During the race, both Renaults struggled for pace and although other problems - including blistered Michelin tyres and significant oversteer - hampered the R26s, the removal of the mass dampers did contribute to their poor performance.

“It goes without saying that removing the mass damper degraded our performance, otherwise the component would not have been on the car throughout the season,” explained Renault’s executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds.

The FIA Court of Appeal will rule on whether the race stewards were correct to overturn the FIA’s earlier decision or whether mass dampers should indeed be banned. However, because of the back-to-back German and Hungarian races, the hearing will have to take place after this weekend. On account of this delay, the FIA are reported to have recommended that all teams running mass dampers at the Hungaroring not be punished retrospectively - even if the device is subsequently banned at the Court of Appeal hearing.