Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he was surprised that rival Formula 1 teams had apparently designed their cars’ floors to flex more than regulations allowed.
The FIA has issued new instructions to F1 teams in a bid to improve two key negative characteristics of 2022 ground effect cars – namely porpoising and the harsh ride quality that comes with stiffer, lower cars.
A revised technical guideline was released this week and the main focus has been the creation of a complicated metric by which the FIA will measure and control acceptable levels of vertical oscillation, to combat the aerodynamic phenomenon of porpoising and aggressive bottoming. .
But the second part of this technical guideline has generally been overlooked, with the FIA focusing on board wear and flex as it sees them as “intrinsically related to the same issues and going hand in hand with metrics”.
Wolff said that was the “interesting part” of the FIA intervention as “some teams may have pushed too hard”.
The FIA’s focus on this area suggests suspicions that some teams have interpreted rules that allow 2mm of bodywork flex in the area defined as the board in a way that the FIA never had. intention to allow.
The rules specify no deviation greater than 2mm at two specific positions, at the leading edge of the board and slightly further back.
No measurements are taken in the rear around where the rider sits, so some teams would have designed the board and skid mounting to give some degree of damping.
The pads are believed to flex over 2mm so can be used more aggressively without wearing out.
“Nobody had any idea until the FIA talked about it at the last technical advisory committee,” Wolff said when asked by The Race if there were any suspicions about this interpretation before the technical directive.
“Which was to the surprise of all the teams because what’s in the regulations, and what the intention of the regulations was, it’s pretty clear.
“There is no argument that it can deviate more than what is in the regulations. A bit of a surprise to say the least, more of a shock.
From France, this interpretation will not be accepted and any car with this solution in place will have to make modifications in order not to be considered in breach of these two regulations.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said he believed his cars were “fully compliant” with everything outlined in the new technical directive.
But Red Bull and Ferrari have been linked as two teams that designed the bodywork in the plank area to bend under the interpretation that the FIA disputed.
Andrew Shovlin, Head of Trackside Engineering at Mercedes, said: “When it appeared, we realized there were opportunities that we may not have grasped or exploited.
“So it won’t affect us in the way we drive our car. It may affect our competitors and by virtue of that we are getting a bit closer.”
Ever since the planned FIA intervention was first revealed ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix, Red Bull has been one of the most vocal critics.
This was in response to the way the FIA scrapped the first version of its technical directive on teams on the eve of a race, and the fact that Red Bull did not suffer from porpoising to the same degree as Mercedes.
Red Bull insisted it would be unfair to impose changes on all teams if some cars complied with the rules and did not porpoise or bounce to an unsafe degree.
This weekend, Horner criticized what he sees as giving the FIA greater control over team setup, which he called a “dangerous path to follow”.
“It’s certainly not a precedent that we want to remove, otherwise the settings will be dictated by FIA guidelines,” said Horner.
However, it can clearly be inferred from the FIA’s revised technical directive that its analysis of the issue of porpoising and dipping has revealed interpretations of the rules which it does not consider acceptable.
And it suggests that cracking down on potential abuse from below ground is about ensuring rules are followed rather than forcing teams to converge on designs for the sake of porpoising.
Asked by The Race if he’s surprised teams are doing things they’re not supposed to do in terms of board flex becoming a priority when the porpoising issue was the initial priority, Horner said: “Hey well, obviously it’s a key performance factor so you can understand why they’re looking at it.
“But if a car spins wide at Copse, I’m sure the rear of the driver gets quite hot with the amount of wood he leaves on the aggressive pavement there.
“So it’s something that, as regulators, they’re looking at closely, that there’s no abuse.
“But it has to be subjective.”