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What Sauber sees in its ’inside-out, back-to-front’ pull-rod F1 suspension

Mechanical compromises forced by a Red Bull-style pull-rod front suspension have not stopped Sauber being convinced it is “absolutely” the right thing for its new Formula 1 car.

As part of a push to be more aggressive with its 2024 C44 design, Sauber has made some extensive changes to the car that Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu will race this season.

One of the most intriguing design shifts is in its suspension layout, with the squad changing to the pull-rod front suspension layout that Red Bull and McLaren have exclusively put to good use in the current ground-effect era.

While a pull-rod layout at the front had fallen out of favour with the previous generation of cars, the potential aerodynamic advantages it offers for ground-effect machinery have started to become more obvious.

Sauber technical director James Key, who oversaw McLaren opting for the pull-rod front when he worked there previously, reckons the aero gains far outweigh what is clearly not an ideal solution from a mechanical perspective because components end up in a difficult to access location.

“Aerodynamically, it's absolutely the right thing to do and it does have a positive effect,” Key told Autosport.

“It is all about managing your front tyre wake, and there are many other complicated functions you try to generate around the tyre.

“It's one of the few devices you've got between the front wing and the rest of the car. So you want to use it to good advantage aerodynamically.

“The disadvantage of course is mechanically. It's absolutely not what you want to do at all. It's inside-out and back-to-front: it's not a nice suspension design as such.”

Sauber C44

Sauber C44

Photo by: Sauber F1 Team

Key said making the move away from a well-known push-rod concept was not straightforward, but he reckoned his team had the ability to overcome any downsides.

“The actual challenge, once you get your aerodynamics to work around it, is to overcome all the mechanical compromises,” he said. “I think we've got a couple of steps we need to do, because it is tough to do that, but they've done a great job as a first ever attempt at Sauber at a pull-rod.”

PLUS: The high-stakes design theory that Sauber hopes is key to 2024 F1 progress

Key explained the decision for Sauber to move to a pull-rod layout was made before he started work there last September – and he admitted he was “delighted” to see the choice that had been made.

He also does not expect Sauber to be the only team to make the move to pull-rod front suspension, based on how Red Bull and McLaren have got so much out of it.

“I'd expect others to follow it because, fundamentally, it's the right thing to do,” he said. “I think you are net better even though there are compromises. You are net better with that configuration.

“The pull-roll [versus] push-rod debate at the rear isn't a talking point really. It is mechanically better to go push-rod for various packaging reasons. There is not much in it.

“But the pull-rod on the front is a different story. I suspect others will pick it up as well.”

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