Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Baku City Circuit, 2022

Formula 1 drivers urge FIA to tackle “very painful” effects of porpoising

2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Formula 1 drivers have raised concerns over the possible long-term effects of the porpoising many of them are suffering in their cars this year.

Eight races into the season, several teams are still experiencing the phenomenon. It has arisen due to the different approaches they have taken to the new technical regulations introduced for 2022 which allowed teams to generate more downforce using their cars’ floors.

The severity of the problem varies from team to team. Some largely avoid it, others encounter it but are still able to race competitively, while others find it restricts their performance.

The severity of the porpoising also differs from track to track. Baku’s long and bumpy straights have made the problem especially severe for some teams: Mick Schumacher even suffered a water leak which caused a stoppage during first practice.

Carlos Sainz Jnr said he “suffered a lot with this” in his Ferrari on Friday, while team mate Charles Leclerc did not. “I had for some reason a car, or a floor, that was porpoising and bottoming a lot more than the other car with the same set-up,” said Sainz.

“It was for some reason very, very painful and there was a bit of chaos in the car going on. But I saw there’s also others struggling around this track.”

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Baku City Circuit, 2022
“Can we do 10 more years like this? I doubt it” – Sainz
Drivers raised concerns over the effects porpoising is having on them during Friday’s meeting with FIA F1 race director Niels Wittich. “It got to a point where in the drivers’ briefing we all looked at each other and said ‘we need to do something’,” Sainz recounted.

“Because it’s okay one race, but can we do 10 more years like this? I doubt it.

“We kindly asked the FIA to look into it, to don’t, let’s say, listen to the teams too much and to listen to us [instead], that we were saying that it’s getting to a point where we are struggling, all of us, to handle this.”

Along with the aerodynamic changes to the cars, teams were also required to simplify their suspension systems this year. Sainz suggested relaxing this rule as a means of allowing teams to control the porpoising.

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“We need something smarter on the suspension or in the way the cars are being run where the FIA controls a bit better the possibility of the teams to run that stiff, that hard, that kind of ride that you see on the straights,” he said.

(L to R): Sergio Perez, Red Bull; Charles Leclerc, Ferrari; Baku Street Circuit, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying day in pictures
“I’m pretty sure if you ask two or three engineers they will know the answer and what can be done to limit this and regulate it. But we just need the FIA to act as soon as possible because if not it’s going to start accumulating.”

“I don’t know if you can call it a danger, but you can say is it necessary to Formula 1 to have 20 drivers at the end of each race with back issues?” Sainz added. “My personal opinion is that with the technology that there is nowadays, why do we need to carry this painful situation into our careers when you can put up a pretty easy solution to it.

“So it’s more a matter of, is it really worth it? Is it necessary when there is possibly a very easy solution to put in place? I don’t think so, it’s not necessary and we should all, teams included, think about the drivers’ health.”

RaceFans understands a change to the 2022 rules was discussed last year which would have prevented teams running their cars as low as they are doing, in order to prevent the porpoising which has occured. However the change was not supported by enough teams to be approved.

Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Baku City Circuit, 2022
Current F1 cars have worst ride of any Alonso has driven
George Russell, who is also a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, warned yesterday it is “just a matter of time before we see a major incident” due to the porpoising.

Fernando Alonso, the most experienced driver on the grid, described the ride in the current cars as “the worst of the last 20 years.”

“I think it’s a combination,” he continued, “this track has been very bumpy on the straights also with the old cars, so this year it’s exaggerated.

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“I think there’s going to come a few tracks like Jeddah, that it was very smooth, or Australia and no one was complaining.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Baku Street Circuit, 2022
“We can’t have this for four years of this car” – Hamilton
A rules change is “going to be very difficult to agree for all the teams”, said Alonso, “but yeah, I wish they do something for the young boys – for me it’s okay for a few more years.”

Russell’s team mate Lewis Hamilton told his race engineer Peter Bonnington “my back’s killing me” during his long run simulation on Friday, due to the porpoising and bottoming they suffered. He believes the problem is “becoming a safety thing, for sure.”

“Today it’s bottoming through corners where you’re doing 180 miles an hour and big, big bottoming. And there’s not really a lot that we can do to stop it.

“We can’t have this for four years of this car. So I think that they need to work on it. I think all the drivers have spoken about it.”

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl expects the drivers’ concerns will be discussed by the FIA.

George Russell, Mercedes, Baku Street Circuit, 2022
Report: Major accident due to high speed bouncing “just a matter of time” says Russell
“I think it’s a fair point that drivers mention,” he said. “I’m sure it will be discussed and followed up in the Technical Advisory Committee, like it has been done at the beginning of the season when these strakes have been introduced.”

“The severity you see on some cars, it’s brutal on the drivers,” he added. “That’s why it’s a fair point and a good point to bring forward to the Technical Advisory Committee and see if it makes sense to address it.

“At the same time, right now, every team knows also how to stop it immediately. But because of the nature of everyone being within competition, it makes sense to look at it as a whole group and the best interests of the sport moving forward.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
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38 comments on “Formula 1 drivers urge FIA to tackle “very painful” effects of porpoising”

  1. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    12th June 2022, 8:47

    Carlos Sainz Jnr said he “suffered a lot with this” in his Ferrari on Friday, while team mate Charles Leclerc did not. “I had for some reason a car, or a floor, that was porpoising and bottoming a lot more than the other car with the same set-up,” said Sainz.

    Not to mention only a handful out of the 20 drivers complain about it. There are fixes, but the outcome (being much slower) is not something they want to accept. There are teams, such as Red Bull and such as Alfa Romeo that barely experience any bouncing at any track. They’ve done their homework better, as have some teams during any season with new regulations.

    Mercedes got it wrong (and Alonso is just a complaining old man a this point, whereas Sainz is looking for excuses why Leclerc is doing so much better) and they have to deal with it. They went down a certain path which turned out to be the wrong one. Now they want the FIA to bring easy ‘fixes’ so they can unlock their full potential because they themselves can’t fix it? NO. Bite the bullet, accept that you’ve done goofed and work on a permanent fix. Do a Haas-move and start working on next years car.

    After nearly a decade of Mercedes getting what they want at every single turn, they should keep their mouths shut if they’ve got it wrong. Yeah, you’re not dominating anymore, tough luck.

    1. @barryfromdownunder Pretty much as I see it too. The problem the ones complaining have is as is spelled out in the article…some don’t have the issue, some do but are competitive anyway, and some have the porpoising costing them lap time and driver discomfort. And it’s track dependent too.

      Of course it is possible that FIA might allow active suspension for next season, but I don’t think they should. We are seeing first hand evidence that it is not needed in order to mitigate porpoising. So I think it is actually laughable that some have claimed they can’t have this ‘for the next 10 years’ (some saying 3 or 4) when some teams haven’t had a problem with it for even one race.

      And boy can you imagine the change in tone there would be around here if it was RBR suffering the most and asking for FIA intervention and Mercedes had nailed it? But hey, if Mercedes needs FIA intervention to get competitive then let that be an asterisk to them, and here’s hoping it only helps the likes of RBR be even faster. As it is I can’t see why FIA needs to or should intervene to help some teams who have gotten it wrong when some teams have gotten it right all on their own. Even from day one like RBR.

      1. Bryan Hopkins
        13th June 2022, 19:54

        Hypocrite

    2. I mean.. it isn’t tough luck, whichever side you take on this the FIA banned Mercedes suspension from last year so they had to start from scratch and as the article says a change was also made to the new rules which would have prevented teams running their cars as low as they are doing, in order to prevent the porpoising.

      You don’t have to side with or against Mercedes accept that it’s not just tough luck, they’ve literally had to start from scratch.

  2. I see drivers saying they know what to do, but apart from a hand waving reference to suspension changes from last year, no specific suggestions.

    I posted this a few races back, it still remains my analysis of what’s going on and why some teams don’t suffer..

    A key difference between Red Bull and Mercedes is the manner in which they create the underbody venturis. This is clearly illustrated in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l29SZc19y4I

    By making their underbody tunnels almost constant height and throttling the air stream by increasing the width of the centre section of the floor, Red Bull have minimised the change in venturi neck area with suspension movement/ride height. The Mercedes has wide and shallow venturi, meaning any change in ride height has a correspondingly larger affect on venturi neck area and hence ultimate depression and downforce. As the car speed increases, the venturi closes, proportionally much more than the RB, pressure under the car will drop even more, sucking it to the road where the flow stalls and the car pops up again following loss of downforce.

    As a result of their design the Red Bull remains clear of the venturi choking point because the venturi area is little changed and hence has consistent downforce from underbody low pressure. I suspect CFD results pointed Mercedes in the direction which they have gone, but it wasn’t capable of predicting the dynamic situation of a real track with bumps and ripples which may well trigger the process. The RB will be unaffected by comparison.

    The creator of the video linked only gets to conclude this at the end. In reality it’s fairly basic engineering that has led RB to their solution, probably because Newey has been here before in the 80’s.

    Mercedes having a wide expanse of floor without sidepod hardware must give them the opportunity to somewhat copy the narrow & tall RB tunnel strategy provided they don’t waste too much time tinkering around the edges of the problem.

    The motivation for the low depth MB venturi might have come from their success at the end of last year with stalling their diffuser on the straights, gaining top speed. This year the overwhelming contribution of the floor to downforce seems to have made this strategy too difficult achieve predictably with a suspension calibration. The ‘collapsing suspension’ devices Mercedes used in the rear suspension last year to stall the diffuser seem to have been outlawed by the new regulations [though the regs are complicated and I wouldn’t claim to have fully grasped their intent].

    New floor design please..

    i see no evidence that Mercedes have changed their floor profile to replicate Red Bull’s venturi shape.

    1. @frasier That’s a really informative video. I must have missed it last time. Thank you.

    2. Cheers for that.
      You could see in Spain that Merc weren’t as quick as Ferrari or RedBull even with their car low and no porpoising going on. It seems they have more than that to fix.

      1. I’m guessing that Barcelona as a race circuit is smoother than the streets of Baku, hence does not trigger as obvious porpoising. If the road surface is 100% smooth then a low depth wide venturi has a better chance of working because porpoising is an unstable cyclic phenomena that needs an outside influence to initiate.

        Having worked in engineering departments I know that some individuals are remarkably stubborn about wanting ‘just one more chance’ to make a fundamentally flawed design work. If I had to guess based upon my experiences with people, Toto trusts that persistent person to deliver, it’s hard to get around that if you know better, but are not in the loop.

        Re the overall speed of the Merc, yes there’s work to do in that department too, but right now they’re fixated on a problem that prevents any reasonable fine tuning.

  3. Being in sensors that monitor vertical movement. If that limit is hit, the car has to be retired. They’ll all sort out the bouncing immediately.

    I’m sure all the people who argued against changes to the engines because some manufacturers could get their designs right previously would be equally as horrified by the idea of changing the rules now to suit teams who can’t figure out how to implement ground effects correctly.

    1. How do you go about finding out what the limit should be. From a regulatory standpoint these things have to be researched thoroughly, they can’t be done arbitrarily. And what if a number is thrown out there and it’s found that sports like rallying regularly exceed this limit. It’d be an existential crisis for a sport like rallying.

      This is not a simple problem to fix. It has to be studied properly.

      1. Yeah I agree it needs to be researched and in reality, this problem will go away for a while now as there aren’t any proper street circuits again until Singapore.

        My initial comment was more to prove a point rather than a realistic suggestion. If there was a limit, the teams wouldn’t go above it. They can stop the porpoising and bumping around but they don’t want to sacrifice any pace. It’s a conscious decision to put the drivers through this.

        I don’t like how the conversation seems to be heading to a point where the new regulations are being blamed. It’s the same as the arguments around how hybrid engines are bad because Mercedes are much better at designing them than everyone else and most were very much against regulations being brought in to help struggling teams/manufacturers. The same should apply now.

    2. Keep the problematic restrictions in the rules (not allowing necessary suspension parts), and introduce new limits to DSQ teams which cant stay within, just to bash one team you dislike – very smart opinion.

      Embarrasing soapbox derby this is, due to the current regulations. Ok the pinnacle of soapbox, but for sure not of motorsports.

      1. I assume you were backing the calls to simplify the hybrid engines to help Ferrari, Honda and Renault previously then yeah?

        1. Also… no-one would be disqualified. They’d run the cars in a way so they didn’t bounce but they’d be a bit slower.

    3. That would be the only thing that FIA could do, and should do if this is/becomes a safety issue.

      Car design (within those parameters) is a responsibility of the teams.

  4. Remember Spa 2011 when they revised the minimum pressure requirements for the tyres because Pirelli were almost certain they’d see catastrophic failures due to the loads? Surely this is approaching that level of concern now. The trouble is, Mercedes will probably be a touch closer to Red Bull and Ferrari and so introducing a new minimum ride-height will always be perceived as political even if driver discomfort and injury is genuine… I can’t see a neat solution for this one.

    1. Pirelli tyres are a spec-component and thus not really an equivalence in this debate.

    2. @tommy-c On the other hand they had a title stripped from them because of a floor change that impacted them most (that Mercedes themselves agreed upon).
      Who knows also how much compromises RedBull had to make to have it work and what they will gain? Difficult to say who is going to benefit the most, but hard to defend the current situation is healthy and given the way F1 is, nobody will give up too much performance for comfort. This is definitely something that should be regulated by external body.

    3. If they require a reduction in porpoising or bottoming out (ride height in itself is no issue) the it is more likely that Mercedes will be disadvantaged.

  5. A drivers’ strike would sort it out in one day. Boycott a practice session.

    1. Why should all drivers / teams strike?
      That would be like all teams striking because Mercedes got it right in previous seasons. I am certain Merc drivers would not strike.

    2. That seems illogical. They need as much practice time as possible to gather data to fix their cars. It’d be like the cars with non-Mercedes engines boycotting in 2014. It’d just make the problem worse.

  6. This is a more complex set of circumstances than some realise. There is a wider context to appreciate here.

    Firstly you have to see this from a regulatory point of view. Governing bodies can’t arbitrarily introduce limits on things citing safety. They have to be researched and understood. Driving hurting their backs/necks and so on isn’t great, but if we use what amounts to anecdotal evidence then it sets a problematic precedent.

    So a governing body has to make sure any systems designed to limit this movement has a degree of efficacy and scientific evidence behind it. You don’t do this kind of thing by eye. People also need to bare in mind that any movement sensors will have to be able to discriminate what between aero induced porpoising and others things like bumpy tracks, kerbs, cars going wide etc…. It’s really not as simple as people think it is. This all has to be researched, calibrated etc… it’s extremely complex. And back pain and headaches is not something that just happens in F1… plenty of karters experienced these kinds of issues and often to a more severe degree. A kart can break your ribs just from cornering alone.

    You then have to consider the secondary effects. If the FIA do indeed find a degree of bouncing is unacceptable, then what happens if it is found that these frequencies are often experienced in other categories like rally where it’s not so easy, or impossible, to dial it out. It could be an existential threat to those types of motorsport. F1 doesn’t exist in isolation. Any research that goes into brain injury risk will effect ALL of motorsport.

    That’s not to say internal brain injury risk is something that should be ignored, I am just saying that we need to think about this is situation with a wider context in mind when discussing the probelm. This isn’t a simple case of ‘raise’ the ride heights or have a sensor that measures bouncing.

    1. Not only can governing bodies “arbitrarily introduce limits on things citing safety”, it’s written into every motorsports rulebook that the FIA can do so. Precedent to this was established in 1969 when the predecesor to the FIA was able to arbitarily ban rear wings for a time due to repeated failures, and has never been revoked in motorsports.

      There is, however, a certain threshold that has to be met before the FIA can do this (otherwise third parties may assume the FIA should reasonably have considered the cure was likely to be worse than the disease), there are psuedopolitical consequences to acting (and indeed not acting) which it has to weigh, and most importantly the FIA has to demonstrate that whatever alternative it proposes is both likely to be effective and enforceable.

      Secondary effects should be considered, though historically that’s been hit-and-miss. If it turns out there is problematic bouncing in other series, then obviously that must also be controlled – although I suspect the situation for rallying is less bad than it first looks because they have suspensions with modes that aren’t variants of “rock-solid”.

      1. I think with regard to bouncing it’s very different because the effects are not something that is self-evident. The evidential requirement in this matter is different, which I think you allude to anyway. From my own experience with certain regulations pertaining to safety equipment I should add I am not saying governing bodies are absolute without fault.

        With regard to rally. It’s an assumption that because they have suspension that isn’t rock-solid that the drivers aren’t exposed to a similar risk. We don’t really know. If we are to accept, as everyone seems to do, that oscillations are bad and need to be considered with regard to overall driver safety then it seems quite reasonable to me that rallying as well as others would come under the umbrella of attention.

        My fundamental point here is the issue with regard to regulations, enforcement and the wider implications for motorsport in general are far more complex than being appreciated currently.

  7. As long as there are teams that can be fast without suffering the effects of porpoising, I think the FIA should do absolute zero things about this. If it’s too uncomfortable for the drivers, their teams should take responsibility for it and sacrifice straight line speed until they can fix it properly.

    Fix it yourselves, it’s proven to be possible.

    1. Agreed. It might be a safety/health concern for some F1 drivers, but given the huge differences between the teams, this is first and foremost a teams issue rather than a regulatory issue.

      Of course teams, for whom drivers are often the most sympathetically perceived spokespersons, have always tried to get the rules changed to become more competitive. It was just last year that Mercedes spend many a press conference talking about the “dangerous” pitstop when it was quite obvious that they simply couldn’t match Red Bulls speed in the pitlane.

    2. @sjaakfoo From the footage in qualifying, every team’s porpoising a fair bit, it’s just that a few of those teams were experiencing similar amounts of bouncing last year for other reasons.

  8. Just like the budget cap, the technical regulations are acceptable and being proven so by the plain and simple fact that some teams aren’t suffering these issues.

    If they are going to change the technical regs to make the teams who got it right suffer for getting it right, it must only be done at the conclusion of the season.

    1. Exactly. It is possible to run a team within the budget cap, it’s also possible to race a car without meaningful porpoising, and it’s even possible to be fast, win races, and lead the championship whilst doing so. The rules are fine. It’s not the FIA’s job to help Sainz, Russell and others who, for whatever complex set of reasons, can’t do as well as others.

      1. MichaelN Additionally it is even possible to have lots of porpoising and be fighting for race wins and the Championship.

    2. This appears to be false on both counts.

  9. I’m not entirely sure why regs around things such as suspension need to be as restrictive nowadays given the cost cap. Anything that was previously introduced as a cost measure should be fair game now, as long as a team doesn’t overspend.

  10. Richard Gibson
    12th June 2022, 12:00

    In my opinion the cars porpoising down the straights makes for a bad viewing experience.

  11. This shouldn’t be happening. The pinnacle of motor sport and the drivers are at risk of serious injury because the cars drive with the smoothness of a jeep ride in an Arizona desert. It looks terrible (for F1) but the physical damage is beyond reasonable. If no other solutions are permissible, install sensors to set limits on the amount of porpoising permissible and force the teams to solve the problem anyway possible (probably raising the ride height).

  12. The porpoising is terrible, to change the rules based on teams not wanting to suffer performance loss isn’t a reason to change regulations.

    I believe it is entirely possible and once they’ve found a happy safe medium inclusive of balance they can spend the remaining time (year on year) improving performance.

  13. Because of all the bespoke cars there is no silver bullit. Some might say a minimum ride height but what height? As high as the worst bouncing car needs? That is just plain silly and very much the opposite of F1.
    The drivers should be careful what they ask for. If the FIA were to intervene they might ask G force sensor data. Does the car bounce to hard in Q or race? Get a penalty. The bouncing will be fixed immediately. And the teams who did their homework won’t be punished for it.
    But I’m fairly sure the complaining drivers wouldn’t want that as a solution. ..

  14. Steven Flatman
    12th June 2022, 17:14

    The reason some have suffered and some not, is some have tried to be too clever, and refused to fix the issue by dialing back their extreme aero designs, others have done this (such as Aston Martin) and reaped the rewards, but others have simply soldiered on and now seem to be looking for dispensation to correct for their errors… there have always been successes and failures in F1, the successes bring rewards and the failures SHOULD be used as lessons, NOT excuses.

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