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What is the difference between a push-rod and pull-rod suspension on an F1 car?

Formula 1 teams are divided in their use of a push-rod and pull-rod configuration, so who is using which suspension and what do they both do?

Valtteri Bottas, Kick Sauber C44

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Giorgio Piola is the preeminent Formula 1 technical journalist. Born in Genoa, Italy, Giorgio has covered the F1 World Championship since 1969, producing thousands of illustrations that have been reproduced in the world’s most prestigious motor racing publications.

F1 returns this week with pre-season testing, meaning cars will be back on track for the first time since 2023.  

It has been almost three months since the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and a lot has happened in the off-season.  

Williams revealed it has kept Logan Sargeant for 2024, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc both signed long-term contracts with their teams, while Lewis Hamilton announced a shock move to Ferrari for the 2025 season - not to forget the re-branding that’s happened at RB and Sauber.   

Car launch season also took place, where each team revealed the look of its 2024 challenger with constructors like Sauber and RB overhauling their colour scheme.   

Another big talking point of car launches though was push and pull-rods - discussing which team had adopted what type of suspension.   

So, what is the difference between them both and why are they so important?   

Daniel Ricciardo, VCARB 01

Daniel Ricciardo, VCARB 01

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

What is the difference between a push-rod and pull-rod on an F1 car?   

An F1 car’s suspension has an upper and lower wishbone – a carbon fibre bar that absorbs shock from the road – which connects the chassis to the wheel. 

Between the wishbones, both at the front and rear, is a suspension rod - either a push-rod or a pull-rod - that connects the wheel to a horizontal torsion spring. The torsion spring stores and releases energy, while twisting when force is applied to it, and that helps to keep a car stable over bumpy surfaces. 

A push-rod sits high up on the chassis where a diagonal rod then connects it to a low point of the wheel. So, over bumps or kerbs the wheel pushes on the torsion spring and that causes the push-rod to go upwards and towards the chassis.   

That is the opposite to a pull-rod. A pull-rod sits low on the chassis where a diagonal rod then connects it to a higher point of the wheel. This means every time the car hits a bump or kerb, the wheel pulls on the torsion spring which causes the pull-rod to go up and outwards from the chassis.  

Both configurations have many advantages and disadvantages. It simply depends on what a team wants, because the suspension must fit the aerodynamic concept of the whole car as it plays a role in directing airflow towards the sidepod and other areas.  

So, for example, a pull-rod has better weight distribution because everything is run closer to the ground as heavy components are mounted towards the bottom of the chassis. This is especially important on ground-effect cars because the lower centre of gravity helps to reduce drag, aid cornering ability and arguably provide a better aero performance. 

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

On the other hand, a push-rod is more practical as its local aerodynamic footprint is more favourable, which means the immediate aero around the suspension is cleaner. Furthermore, having the suspension parts higher on the chassis means it is easier for mechanics to work on the car, because if the front suspension has a pull-rod layout it makes the area quite cramped and sometimes the floor needs to be removed for certain parts to be accessed. 

The push-rod can provide better stability, while it is also cheaper. Although a push-rod may work better for one car, it might not for another and vice-versa with the pull-rod - sometimes, though, it comes down to deciding on aerodynamic and performance gains against cost and practicality in the ground-effect era. 

Sometimes, F1 teams also split the use of both configurations by fitting a pull-rod at the front and push-rod at the rear or vice-versa.           

Which F1 teams use a push-rod or pull-rod suspension on their car?  

Red Bull and McLaren have been the only teams to use a pull-rod configuration on its front suspension for the past two years of ground-effect cars. 

However, Sauber and RB will become the next teams to use a pull-rod configuration at the front for the 2024 season. The Swiss outfit has made extensive changes after finishing next-to-bottom in the 2023 constructors’ championship, while Red Bull's sister squad has taken a development direction similar to the world champions. 

What will help Sauber's transition is technical director James Key, who joined the team from McLaren in September 2023 even though it had already decided on a pull-rod before then.  

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38

Photo by: Uncredited

He believes the aero gains of a pull-rod configuration far outweigh the practicality problems it presents because “it is all about managing your front tyre wake” - a turbulent air flow around the car. 

Key also thinks that more teams will follow suit as “fundamentally, it's the right thing to do” and there is probably no better example of that than Red Bull. Using a front pull-rod configuration, Red Bull has won the past two championships with rounds to spare - including winning 21 of 22 grands prix in 2023 - and the suspension played a pivotal role in that.   

A pull-rod suspension has helped Red Bull to have a sharp front end which is exactly to the liking of world champion Max Verstappen, and the stiffness that presents gives the team a big advantage in the ground-effect era due to its low centre of gravity.   

But, Red Bull uses a push-rod configuration on its rear suspension which is in line with most of the grid because Key thinks the debate “at the rear isn't a talking point really. It is mechanically better to go push-rod for various packaging reasons” as it can help to narrow the gearbox and alter the floor shape, which opens up downforce-producing performance at the car’s rear. 

So, in 2024 eight teams will be using a push-rod configuration at the rear as opposed to five from 2023 because Mercedes and its customer outfits – except for Williams – have made the switch. 

Ferrari will be using a pull-rod configuration at the rear in 2024 as technical director Enrico Cardile explained how its rear suspension “is a bit different” to the Scuderia’s rivals, particularly Red Bull, so it is not as well-suited to a push-rod structure. Williams, meanwhile, decided to not go in the same direction as Mercedes for various reasons one being that there is a cost cap benefit in sticking to last year’s parts.

Team  

Suspension choice in 2024 F1 season  

Red Bull  

Pull-rod front, push-rod rear  

Mercedes  

Push-rod front, push-rod rear  

Ferrari  

Push-rod front, pull-rod rear  

McLaren  

Pull-rod front, push-rod rear  

Aston Martin  

Push-rod front, push-rod rear  

Alpine  

Push-rod front, push-rod rear  

Williams  

Push-rod front, pull-rod rear  

RB  

Pull-rod front, push-rod rear  

Sauber  

Pull-rod front, push-rod rear  

Haas  

Push-rod front, push-rod rear  

History of the push-rod and pull-rod suspension  

Push-rod and pull-rod suspensions date back to the 1960s and ‘70s, as a push-rod was introduced by legendary car designer Colin Chapman, who founded Lotus. He used an inboard suspension on the Lotus 21 that finished second in the 1961 F1 championship.   

Stirling Moss, Lotus 18/21

Stirling Moss, Lotus 18/21

Photo by: Sutton Images

Brabham’s Gordon Murray then introduced the pull-rod configuration on a BT49 in 1979 and it was a revolution. This is because the pull-rod was much more flexible than the archaic hydro-pneumatic suspension which was used at the time - meaning a car’s centre of gravity was lowered causing an improvement in performance.  

Over the coming seasons, Nelson Piquet won the 1981 drivers’ championship for Brabham, while other teams also attached a pull-rod suspension. However, the pull-rod suspension became much less used in the 1990s when a minimum ride height rule was introduced, which meant teams needed a higher centre of gravity.   

It returned to F1 in 2009 under revised regulations where the diffuser was moved rearwards. So, with Red Bull’s use of low sidepods, Adrian Newey believed attaching a pull-rod would help lower the RB5’s centre of gravity allowing for cleaner airflow to the car’s rear - and it worked. Despite only using a single diffuser compared to Brawn’s double diffuser, Red Bull came very close to beating the eventual world champions with the diffuser simply proving to be the difference maker.   

So, a double diffuser was attached to the RB6 alongside a pull-rod suspension and 2010 started a run of four consecutive double world championships for Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel. Red Bull started a trend, as 2011 saw 10 of 12 teams use a pull-rod before Ferrari and Sauber joined the majority the following year.   

Ferrari became the last team to use a pull-rod suspension for several years, as the configuration featured on its SF15-T in 2015 before push-rods dominated once again.  

But, the reintroduction of ground-effect cars in 2022 presented the opportunity for pull-rod suspensions to return because of what can be gained by running closer to the ground.

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