RACING

F1’s porpoising solution is comparable to Halo, says chief technology officer

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Changing the rules to ensure Formula 1 cars cannot experience porpoising and bottoming is similar in principle to the introduction of haloing, believes McLaren technical director James Key.

New technical rules that came into force this year put more emphasis on ground effect, created low and stiff cars to maximize performance, and unleashed an aerodynamic effect of extreme vertical oscillations, but also improved ride quality. inherently mediocre.

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Although some cars did not experience porpoising, drivers on almost every team have complained about the physical discomfort of these cars under the worst of circumstances and the most extreme concerns relate to potential long-term damage to the brain and to the spine.

The FIA ​​has decided to intervene with a short-term in-season measure for 2022 and rule changes for 2023 that aim to eliminate the potential for porpoising by increasing the height of the floorboard edge and diffuser throat below the floor.

Some teams are pushing back due to the performance and cost implications of a significant set of changes and their lateness, this is a very sensitive time in the development of the car in 2023.

Key thinks that now that the FIA ​​has decided this is a significant safety issue, they can’t just change their minds and thinks it would be bad for the governing body if they didn’t do something about it” and he [the issue] is still here in 2023”.

It’s a similar argument at the time the Halo cockpit protection device was controversially forced into use for the 2018 season, in part for fear of the consequences if the FIA ​​gave in to pressure, delayed it and it there was a serious accident.

Key admitted that the halo is a “bit of an odd parallel” to draw because it was a “totally different project” and a “different order of magnitude” in terms of driver safety.

“But there were a lot of opponents back then,” he said.

“You remember all the comments of ‘it looks terrible’, it’s not Formula 1”. All that stuff.

“And it was like, ‘Well, why the hell not? There is definitely a danger there.” And now look a few years later than we had it, how grateful we are, where we’ve seen some of the things that are on the right track.

“It’s an entirely different order of magnitude, it’s much lower. But it’s kind of the same.

“So, let’s go and fix this. Based on the risk, it does nothing for the sport.

“It actually costs money to investigate a cost cap, which we can do without. It’s a minor consideration, but it’s true.

“Why not just do what makes sense – for safety’s sake, because that’s the main concern – and just give it up?”

The FIA ​​can impose changes if they are linked to safety concerns and it has relied heavily on concerns over porpoising and bottoming out, particularly after drivers suffered extreme issues at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. .

That, and a conclusion by the FIA ​​medical team that the new generation of cars could really have serious consequences for drivers in the long run, is believed to be why FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem stepped in and pushed his organization to commit to action.

Although the problem of porpoising has been non-existent in recent races and the teams have continued to better manage the problem themselves, this is partly due to the tracks that have been used.

The FIA ​​technical department is of the opinion that projected downforce gains in 2023 will exacerbate the problem again.

Key said “if you have a security problem, you can’t go back and say it’s not a problem anymore”.

“It’s very difficult to simulate and predict porpoising,” he said.

“We kind of recognize those ways of getting rid of it. But it can come back quickly if you add certain types of development or increase your downforce.

“So rather than taking that risk, I think from the FIA’s point of view it makes sense to try and remove the problem completely, but also to show that we take it seriously and do something after that. the concerns raised by some of the drivers.

“I’m not saying it would be negligent not to, but you have to be careful here.

“You can’t just assume teams are going to do it. And that may not be everyone’s priority.

“Each team will have an opinion, depending on whether it has a porpoising problem or whether it is in the championship.

“We don’t have porpoises, in particular, we have a development plan, which is working well. But we still think it’s a good idea.

“So we don’t have an agenda here. It’s much more a matter of good, in fact, we could all do without it. We don’t want it to get worse again. We don’t want anyone to get hurt.

“Looking at simple steps, who can try to mitigate it, I think it’s by far the best thing to do to have all these brilliant people, whose priority is not to porpoise every day, to try to fix it.”

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