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F1 chiefs have tools to avoid “unintended” ground effect troubles, says McLaren

Formula 1’s rule makers have all the tools they need to ensure that the next generation of cars are more comfortable for drivers, says McLaren team boss Andrea Stella.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

With the current ground effect cars performing best when they run low and stiff, there have been mounting concerns voiced by drivers about the physical battering they are facing out on track.

It is understood that the issue has been discussed in meetings of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA), with calls being made for action to be taken.

World champion Max Verstappen is understood to have raised the matter with the FIA at the season-opening Bahrain GP amid calls for the new rules set in 2026 to be much improved.

Speaking to the BBC, Verstappen said: "End of the straight with full load, the impact is too high with the low ride-heights.”

More recently, Lando Norris said the constant battering he was facing from the current cars was beginning to have an impact.

“There's certain times when it starts to have a toll,” he said. “It's definitely not as bad as what it was two years ago. Things have improved since then, with porpoising and all of this.

“But you still have to run the cars extremely low and stiff. This takes a toll on you.”

Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren

Andrea Stella, Team Principal, McLaren

Photo by: Erik Junius

As the FIA begins work on framing new rules for 2026, there is hope the next generation of cars will take on board some of the lessons from recent years.

And especially with understanding much greater now about the reasons why cars have to be run low and stiff, Stella thinks there is no excuse not to make improvements.

“All these learnings should definitely be taken into account in designing the 2026 regulations,” he said.

“It will be inconvenient and an incomplete job if, in 2026, the cars have similar kind of issues like in 2022, or if we have again unintended issues because we still have time to study, and even the tools in a few years are further improved.

“We should touch the ground in good shape in 2026, because what happened in 2022 was very challenging.

“At times it was a discomfort for drivers, at times extreme and at times dangerous because the cars became quite unstable. So definitely we need to target to be in a better shape. We have the tools now to do that.”

Stella admits that F1 teams were taken by surprise about how the current generation of ground effect cars behaved when they were first launched in 2022.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

“The 2022 regulations surprised with some unintended challenges,” he said. “We have gone a long way in understanding these challenges. This is also the reason why these cars are much more comfortable to drive now.

“But they can still be quite tricky, because if you take the high-speed sections, they tend to bounce a little bit. They have a little bit of porpoising, and the cars can get pretty snappy, because of this phenomenon.

“It's not only the comfort, it's also how much on the edge the car becomes when you start to add these dynamic oscillations.”

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