It’s just too dangerous to be bouncing down the track every weekend.
The 2022 Formula 1 season is shaping up to be a very exciting one, especially if you’re a Red Bullor Ferrari fan. If you’re a Mercedes fan, on the other hand, there has been little to celebrate this year, bar the remarkable consistency of George Russell. Conversely, Sir Lewis Hamilton’s car has been something of a test bed for Mercedes as it looks to defeat the porpoising phenomenon, and his results have been reflected by the discomfort that his body showed at last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. His wasn’t the only one experiencing these severe effects, and some drivers have called for the FIA, F1’s governing body, to intervene. Their calls have been heard, and the FIA is now taking action.
An introduction to the FIA’s statement reads, in part, as follows: “In the interests of safety, it is necessary to intervene to require that the teams make the necessary adjustments to reduce or to eliminate this phenomenon.” This indicates that the FIA will force teams to put the safety and health of their drivers ahead of their performance goals.
Mercedes could easily put an end to porpoising, but its current solutions would negatively affect performance. This is the case with some other teams too, and the FIA says that “a Technical Directive has been issued to give guidance to the teams about the measures the FIA intends to take to tackle the problem.”
These measures include “closer scrutiny of the planks and skids, both in terms of their design and the observed wear” and “the definition of a metric, based on the car’s vertical acceleration, that will give a quantitative limit for [an] acceptable level of vertical oscillations.” The statement goes on to explain that “the exact mathematical formula for this metric is still being analyzed” and that the teams have been invited to contribute to this process. Moreover, “in addition to these short-term measures, the FIA will convene a technical meeting with the teams in order to define measures that will reduce the propensity of cars to exhibit such phenomena in the medium term.”
While the FIA has been happy to let each team interpret this year’s ground-effect aerodynamic rules as they wish, some teams have simply been unable to find a solution, and as George Russell – whose car had a less torturous setup than Hamilton’s – has said, the extreme bouncing has made it difficult to judge braking points on track, which could obviously lead to severe consequences. The FIA has no choice but to force change before something tragic happens.
Ultimately, the FIA is not going to give teams like Mercedes any special treatment. Instead, it will work with all teams to find a way to reduce the negative effects of the current rules. Hopefully, this assistance will help all teams equally. Until then, Hamilton would probably prefer to be driving an AMG One.