Lotus ignite first controversy of the year

Lotus Renault GP R31 front wing detail.

Jan.12 (Reuters) The first technical controversy of Formula One’s pre-season reared up on Wednesday with Lotus suspected of having developed an innovative ride-height braking system that rivals may soon be copying.

Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali said his team was awaiting clarification from the governing FIA on the legality of the device.

“We are waiting for the final confirmation if this kind of devices will be acceptable or not,” he told autosport.com at a week-long event in the Italian ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio.

“But for sure we are looking around these sorts of devices to see if they contribute to a performance. But we need to wait and see what will be the reaction to the FIA on that.”

A report in Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper on Tuesday indicated Lotus were using a mechanism activated by the driver using a pedal to maintain ride height – the car’s distance from the ground.

The Malaysian-backed team, formerly Renault, were also reported to have tried out the system at a young driver test in Abu Dhabi last year.

Anything which uses a driver’s movement to gain performance by altering the aerodynamic characteristics is banned, but Autosport said the system was reactive to brake torque, formed part of the suspension and therefore complied with the regulations.

Lotus, who have 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen and France’s Romain Grosjean as their drivers, said they were aware of the reports but had nothing to add.

The first pre-season test will start in Jerez, Spain, on Feb. 7 when many teams will have their new cars on track for the first time.