The FIA must enforce rule changes that prevent the violent bouncing of cars known as porpoising. Formula 1’s governing body has been prompted to act after a number of drivers spoke out at last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, warning they could end up suffering health problems at long term if not resolved.
With many drivers suffering from neck and back pain after Baku, and several noting that they found it difficult to concentrate on the braking zones due to the propensity for bouncing, the FIA chose to intervene for security reasons, which means that their reforms do not require the agreement of the teams.
“The FIA has decided to intervene after consultation with its doctors in the interests of driver safety,” they said. “In a sport where competitors regularly drive at speeds in excess of 300 km/h, it is considered that a driver’s full concentration must be focused on this task and excessive fatigue or pain experienced by a driver could have significant consequences if this results in a loss of concentration.
“In addition, the FIA is concerned about the immediate physical impact on the health of the drivers, a number of whom have reported back pain following recent events.”
Porpoising occurs on the straights as cars gain and lose downforce through ground effect aerodynamics under the vehicle floor. It’s an unexpected side effect of regulations introduced ahead of the new season, with some teams suffering more than others. Mercedes are among those who have had problems and in Azerbaijan have suffered the worst so far. Lewis Hamilton was barely able to get out of his car and his teammate, George Russell, who is director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, was particularly outspoken about the need for the FIA to intervene. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz also insisted it’s a problem that needs to be fixed.
In Baku, Russell compared him to cognitively impaired footballers who repeatedly headed a ball. “When they had massively heavy footballs and there was research and analysis done, there were health consequences for those guys running the ball and things changed,” he said. declared. “F1 is the center of innovation, there’s no reason why we can’t find a scientific solution to that.”
Teams that have not suffered from the problem, such as Red Bull, believe there should be no rule change as they have gone down a design path with their cars that has left them unable to deal with porpoising. However, riders noted that even teams with little porpoising want action, pointing out that the low ride height and suspension stiffness required as part of the ground-effect formula produced significant impacts through the body, even without the overt visible bounce.
“The compression, you hurt and you feel like you’re stuck,” said McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo. “It’s also the frequency. It’s this shaking of the brain and the spine, I don’t think it’s good, long term.
“I know George was very vocal about it. They suffered a lot. And I sympathize with him 100%.
The FIA took on board the drivers’ concerns and intervened, saying it would start by examining the floorboards and pads under the car to determine design and wear. The governing body will also quantify, in consultation with teams, an acceptable level of “vertical oscillation”, or the amount of bouncing that would be considered to be within safe parameters.
With the current design formula expected to last until at least 2025 when new engines will be introduced, in the longer term the FIA will hold a meeting with the teams to define measures that will definitively address the phenomenon for years to come. .