Why the FIA’s intervention on F1 porpoising is good news and bad news for Mercedes


As a team that has faced the biggest challenge in taming the rebound of its W13 car, anything that helps get rid of the phenomenon seems like something it could benefit from.

Because if all teams are forced to run in a setup window where porpoising isn’t a risk, that might help level the playing field a bit.


That’s why Red Bull team principal Christian Horner suggested after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix that any rule changes to intervene on that front would be “unfair” to teams not suffering from the problem.

But dig deeper into what the FIA ​​is planning and it looks like the governing body is approaching things slightly differently than Horner might have feared.

In fact, the FIA ​​has the ability to impose limits that could actually hinder rather than help Mercedes’ competitive fortunes in the short term.

A critical message in the FIA’s announcement is that it seeks to produce a metric – based on the car’s vertical acceleration loads – that will help define an acceptable level of rebound in the future.

Although the final details of what the motor racing governing body plans to do have not been made public, the first step is a pure exercise in data collection.

From the opening practice of this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, the FIA ​​will be taking telemetry data and undertaking a more in-depth technical assessment of the cars and their handling to better understand the impact of porpoising. This work will include examining the planks and skids under the cars.

With this data in the system, a strict G-force and/or frequency limit will then be imposed on the cars on track to ensure that no driver has to suffer the kind of beating that Lewis Hamilton so painfully endured at Baku.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

With such a rebound limit in place, teams able to run their car low to the ground without the rebound wouldn’t have to change anything to comply with such a metric. However, for any outfit that runs into trouble as it gets its car closer to the ground, this could be a competitive headache.

Because if the FIA ​​has a metric that stipulates a maximum tolerance for bouncing and touching down, any team being too aggressive with their setup, and pushing it into an area where their car is porpoising, might be forced to make changes to compose it. .

That could mean moving the car out of its ideal setup window – and it could mean sacrificing lap time to ensure rules are followed and ensure drivers don’t suffer the adverse effects of porpoising.

Drivers struggling with the most porpoises right now could find themselves with a very smooth ride soon with the rebound gone, but at the expense of lap time which could drop them down the order.

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Still, while there could be short-term difficulties for teams that haven’t got the porpoising problem under control, it’s also likely that better solutions will be in place for 2023 and beyond.

Russell’s complaints over the Baku weekend were more aimed at F1 asking whether it wants porpoising to remain a problem for the sport for the next few years.

And the FIA ​​has indeed hinted that efforts will now be made with teams to help find ways to eradicate it.

The governing body wants a meeting with the teams to “define the measures which will reduce the propensity of cars to present such phenomena in the medium term”.

The idea is that F1 goes beyond the need for a maximum rebound limit and instead offers adjustments to F1 rules to help banish the risk of porpoising altogether for the new generation of cars.

This could be achieved through more freedom in suspension technology, even a return to F1 of active suspension, or perhaps even making mass dampers legal again.

It’s the lack of such suspension tools amid the current 2022 rules that has been a factor in Mercedes’ struggle to tame the W13 – so any assistance on that longer-term front would certainly be welcome for the automaker. German as he tries to get back to the front of the grid.

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