George Russell, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2022

Medical data shows why FIA “needs to do something” to cut porpoising – Wolff

2022 Hungarian Grand Prix

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The FIA has received medical data which shows why it must act to reduce ‘porpoising’, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has said.

The sport’s governing body intends to introduce technical changes to next year’s cars to reduce the harshness of the ride drivers experience. It has said this is being done on safety grounds.

Some team principals are opposing the move. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said last week he would “dispute it is a safety issue” and argued the problem can be eased through set-up changes.

“I think that it’s down to a team how it chooses to operate its car,” he said. “You can remove the porpoising very easily but that’s at the sacrifice of performance.

“So therefore it’s not the duty of the FIA to ensure that a team is competitive. Otherwise we’d have had engine [balance of performance rules] over the last 10 years.”

By making the changes on grounds of safety, the FIA can force them through without putting it to a vote of teams. “I think safety is a very easy card to stand behind because theoretically it’s not then subject to a Commission or World Council vote,” said Horner.

“I think something can be done but I think that it just needs to be sensible. The numbers that have been discussed are just way too extreme compared to the reality of what probably could be done.”

When the FIA announced its plans to tackle porpoising two weeks ago it said in a statement the problem “is considered to be a significant safety matter.”

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Wolff said the FIA has received information on the potential damage drivers could suffer from the hard rides their cars may generate.

“I’ve just sat down with the FIA and there’s all this talk of lobbying in either direction and I think fundamentally, what are we talking about,” he said.

“The FIA has commissioned medical work on the porpoising. The outcome, the summary of the doctors, is that a frequency of one to two hertz, sustained over a few minutes, can lead to brain damages. We have six to seven hertz over several hours.

“So the answer is very easy. The FIA needs to do something about it.”

While concerns over porpoising have lessened in recent races, Wolff believes this is due to the smoother surface of recent tracks F1 has visited, which the FIA alluded to when they announced the planned 2023 rules changes.

“I still fundamentally believe that there is no choice for the FIA and for us to do something because I don’t want to have it back in Spa or in some of the later races where the track is not as smooth as on a conventional race track and we haven’t done anything and people say, ‘well, now it’s too late’,” said Wolff.

“So the argument ‘we haven’t had any porpoising and bouncing in the last few races’ doesn’t count because Silverstone, [Paul Ricard], Austria aren’t exactly tracks that we’d bounce [at] otherwise anyway.”

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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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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26 comments on “Medical data shows why FIA “needs to do something” to cut porpoising – Wolff”

  1. It’s not a discussion about IF they need to do something, but WHAT they should prescribe.

    I strongly believe that FIA should only define how much vertical movement the cars can make. It’s then up to the teams to design and set up their cars to stay within those limits.
    In the proposed changes the FIA goes a lot further and prescribes how the teams should design their car by changing the technical regulations. That’s not an area where FIA should make changes overnight, especially in areas which are extremely critical in the design directions the various teams have chosen.

    1. Allow the teams to design and implement a suitable suspension which is fit for ground effect style cars and the problem goes away organically.
      Or don’t and go down the rabbit hole of trying to police maximum allowable up and down vibrations…

    2. Coventry Climax
      31st July 2022, 13:57

      But it IS a discussion about WHETHER it should be policed.

      Toto keeps hammering on it, as the principal of the team that bounces most. That’s funny in itself.
      Also funny is, that halfway the season, he manages to come up with data that he sasy would justify what he wants. That’s suspiciously late and I’m not buying it. But as what Toto says probably gets accompanied with huge amounts of money- or threats of that sort – I’m sure the FIA will buy it just fine.

      Lets see if my comment is allowed to stay here this time, or if it’s taken off again, without having the courtesy of telling me why. That’s a dubious way to go guys.

      1. On that last line, it’s indeed frustrating that comments disappear without explanation.
        In the past (when I was still a registered paying member) I followed up a few times, but no answers.
        I think this site needs to do better; it’s quite obvious how many of the good commenters have left the site, or at least gone lowkey.

    3. This is what happened in 2020 for 2021. FIA prescribed a tehcnical change of a cut out in rear floor to make cars safer and reduce the forces on tyres. PIrelli then changed the compound.
      Technical changes for safety are very common.

      Keep in mind based on current evidence every team would have failed the Oscialtion test in Baku. RBR drivers included. Max stating that if F1 was to return next year the track must be resurfaced a the bumps were unbareable. Perez was sighted as saying braking was very difficult due to blurred vision and picking out his braking points. Perez is also the first driver to suffer a long term issue from this. A contractuer RBR tried to hide under a tiny crash in Canada is most commonly experienced due to repetative moton causing tightening of the muscle and joint.

  2. Well Toto it is Mercedes that inflicted physical harm on their own drivers because they badly designed the car and prioritized performance and experiments over the well being of their drivers.

    At any moment Mercedes could have told their drivers to drive slower, raise the ride height or a few other things to reduce purposing.

    Mercedes is solely to blame, not the FIA not the other teams yet dirty politics now is causing problems or driving cost for all team to help/benefit just 1 team.

    1. Agree 100%. Torsten needs to get his team to focus on why the 2022 Mercedes is experiencing more porpoising than the other teams!

      1. Fred Fedurch
        31st July 2022, 13:22

        Watching the super slo-mo of the Mecs in quali yesterday they looked like they had little, if any porpoising. They’ve obviously found something in their setup to help alleviate it. Have to agree with Christian. A number of the teams have a handle on it. It’s up to the rest to come up with their own solutions, not lobby for changes to negate the solutions the other teams have come up with.

  3. I’m no doctor whatsoever but if we are going to start worrying about drivers safety can we start with the obvious. What about the frontal and lateral G forces sustained during the races ? I think they are far more dangerous than porpoising in terms of long term brain damage. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think that a g force limit has been imposed on roller coasters the states a long time ago.

    This is a sport where the risk of injury and long terms effect are part of the business. The FIA has always to reduce that risk and to organize the championship guaranteeing the safety of all parts involved. The risk can be contained but not nullified.

    Swimming for instance which is one of the best activities someone can practise can have long term effects for competitive swimmers. Not to mention combat sports and especially Boxing where brain damage can be caused in the blink of an eye. If Wolff and his drivers cannot accept the risk related to their job, they can still quit and save us a lot of moaning and stay healthy and have a good life outside from F1.

    Moreover, let’s assume porpoising is indeed dangerous. I’m not going to debate that. There is already a metric that have been defined that will force teams someway or the other to reduce porpoising starting from the Belgian GP. As Horner said, porposing can be contained at the expense of performance. Why the Mercedes W13 set up sheet and optimum working range have to be imposed on the rest of the teams ?

    You can call me a conspiracy theorist… 6 months into the new rules and they are already changing the rules to give Mercedes a bailout. Pathetic sour losers…

    1. I’m no doctor but I would think that the problem comes from the frequency of the oscillations, so while the drivers experience higher g-forces while braking, during bouncing the brain itself can resonate at a specific frequency and suffer much bigger spikes than what can be read even from the accelerometers embedded in the driver’s earphones…

      Think of it like jello swinging back and forth in a container, there’s a point where it will hit violently on the sides while the outside doesn’t move as much. Same with the brain and skull.

    2. @tifoso1989 Frontal and lateral G got researched in the 1980s and 1990s in F1. They’re well in bounds, and that’s why they don’t go to the medical centre for anything below 15 G frontal. The tolerance is lower for lateral G but the 6.5 G which is the highest I’ve seen in a non-crash situation is within bounds to the best of my knowledge.

      Vertical G (which is what porpoising causes) is the human body’s weak point for G. There’s also the problem that it’s so short for each incident of porpoising that short duration shock and jerk also become involved (further reducing the amount that is safe).

      Rollercoasters have to consider that most riders aren’t particularly fit, nor do they generally train specifically to ride rollercoasters.

  4. Nobody is denying something needs doing about porpoising, Toto. What is being proposed is a wholesale rule change, when a simple G and oscillation limit is all that is needed – with teams modifying their cars themselves if necessary to comply.

    1. G and oscillation limits are a wholesale rule change in themselves.

  5. Track data also shows, Mercedes might be the quickest car if it were not for porpoising.

    It is clear they must do something.

  6. Instead of F1 & the FIA releasing preachy videos to deal with the fan abuse issue, they should rather get rid of divisive figures like Wolff in particular, who is guilty of using the media to whip up the once peaceful villagers into a pitch fork carrying mob.

    1. Yeah let’s start getting rid of team bosses and team shareholders because they express opinions and lobby the FIA…

      Don’t be ridiculous.

      If they did Horner and Marko would be following him out of the door….

  7. Football bosses don’t need to do anything about dementia from ex players they can just not head the ball.

    Rugby Bosses don’t need to do anything either as they can just tackle less hard.

    There are big legal cases around the two sports above and they are looking into ways to address this problem. This F1 case has some similarities in my view with the difference being its easily fixable.

  8. The FIA has commissioned medical work on the porpoising. The outcome, the summary of the doctors, is that a frequency of one to two hertz, sustained over a few minutes, can lead to brain damages. We have six to seven hertz over several hours.

    Stop driving cars then, there is no way on earth someone driving is not subjected to frequencies over 2hz, bumps on the road, engine vibrations, the engine note, heck car radio goes over 10k.
    What a load of rubbish.
    Driving in f1 is much more violent than just the porpoising frequency, though surely some cars hit the ground very hard but the harshness of the kerbs is probably far worse, the harshness of 6.5g of braking or the 3g lateral is far worse not to mention driving without a drinks bottle, losing several kg in fluids, and finally having crashes, 50g on the head can instantly kill you, 75g on the torso can kill you right away. With these heavy cars we are nudging closer and closer to the maximum G forces our bodies can withstand.
    Nobody trully cares about safety.

  9. So new regulations, flaws in them that don’t allow teams to remove potentially harmful side effects, but one team is OK so these regulations should now be frozen in time? No.

    1. @david-br
      If they want to change the rules they must go through the legal framework. It’s not a safety issue since there is already a metric that allows FIA to control porposing starting from the Belgian GP. Any team outside of that metric will disqualified. Why impose a specific technical change biased to Mercedes on all the other teams of they are complying. Even Williams who are Mercedes customers with Toto still a minor shareholder in the team were against the rule change which speaks volume.

      Rules change debate “absurd”, says Wolff
      https://www.racefans.net/2014/04/06/f1-fanatic-round-0604/

      1. That is a good link

    2. @david-br None of the teams appears to be OK, some are just more tolerable in the short term.

  10. Rugby players are now forming a class action suit against the RFU and World Rugby not the teams they were playing for regarding early onset dementia, the FIA will realise this and are rightfully doing something about it. To say that this is pandering to MB just shows that you need to take your RB glasses off and look at the bigger picture.

  11. Any drivers suing FIA down the line for introducing regulations that caused repetitive injury and did nothing about it, despite warnings, would have a strong case surely. Drivers – as teams love to remind us – are employees too and FIA ultimately represents and supposedly protects their interests and well-being. That’s on the health side. On the engineering performance side, what on earth is wrong with allowing modifications for enhancing the performance of these new cars? The bar set is the ability to race, chase and overtake. If that isn’t compromised, where’s the problem? Mercedes’ wings were clipped repeatedly over the years. It’s kind of rich for the drinks company manager to get upset that Red Bull’s advantage might be trimmed a little this year.

  12. The focus is on the porpoising because that is the most obvious visual of the problem.

    However even without the porpoising you still need to run ground effect cars stiff & low which makes for a harsher ride & is still beating the drivers up worse than with non ground effect cars.

    I’ve said in the past that it was the same the last time they ran ground effects and was the main reason the drivers of that era hated driving those cars.

  13. Oh please Toto, just shut it.

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