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How 2023 F1 floor changes will help limit porpoising issues

Formula 1’s switch to ground effect cars this year to try to help make the racing closer has had one major unintended consequence – porpoising.

2023 Proposal rule vie

Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

Giorgio Piola is the preeminent Formula 1 technical journalist. Born in Genoa, Italy, Giorgio has covered the F1 World Championship since 1969, producing thousands of illustrations that have been reproduced in the world’s most prestigious motor racing publications.

While all teams have experienced it to a greater or lesser extent, driver complaints about the safety implications of some of the worst bouncing eventually triggered the FIA into action.

In a move that has proved controversial with teams, the FIA is introducing an Aerodynamic Oscillation Metric (AOM) from the Belgian Grand Prix that will limit the amount of vertical movements cars can have on track.

But that is just a temporary measure; for 2023, changes are planned to the technical regulations that the FIA believes will reduce the risks of porpoising being a hindrance going forward.

The planned changes were discussed in a meeting of F1’s Technical Advisory Committee last week and are now set to be put to the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council for rubber stamping.

The proposals set out in the TAC meeting are aimed at limiting the design scope of the cars by lifting some of them up off the ground.

This includes raising the throat of the diffuser, by a yet-to-be-determined amount, while the floor edges will also be raised by 25mm. Plus, in order that the teams don’t overtly flex the floor edges to overcome these new dimensional restrictions, more stringent lateral floor deflection tests will be introduced.

The FIA also plans to monitor things more closely, with the introduction of a more accurate sensor that will help to quantify the aerodynamic oscillation of the car.

To further curb the aerodynamic issues that have been created by the new regulations, teams have also suggested the use of a pair of strakes within the diffuser.

2023 side view diffuser strake

2023 side view diffuser strake

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

A simple and highly prescribed solution is expected to help manage flow in this region and help tackle the ill effects posed by bouncing and porpoising, something that will certainly be welcomed by the drivers.

In many ways, the changes that have been proposed are similar to those in 2021, when F1 trimmed the floor, brake winglets and diffuser strakes to help de-power the aerodynamic potential of the car’s rear end.

Such a move was done to essentially save the teams from themselves as they would likely have put designed cars that put too much stress on the tyres, which would have caused even bigger problems. In much the same way as those 2021 tweaks, these latest changes will reduce the peak loads that are imparted on the chassis, and – with that – help to reduce the potential for porpoising and bouncing.

That said, teams will still look for ways to run the car as low and as stiff as possible without falling foul of the new aerodynamic oscillation metric, as there will still be performance to be found even if it compromises the ride quality of the car.

Ferrari 2023 diffuser strake

Ferrari 2023 diffuser strake

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The proposed regulation change is also similar, from a timeline perspective, to the changes made for 2021 and will undoubtedly put immense pressure on the teams to balance development, with work already well underway on next year’s cars. This is why the FIA has made it clear that proposed changes be ratified by the World Motor Sport Council as soon as possible.

Making changes to these extremely sensitive areas of the car will not only undo some of the work teams have already completed on next year’s car, but they will also make some of the development towards the backend of this season redundant too, as the performance gains teams find may well be irrelevant given the changes being made.

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Also, given that most of the grid was caught out with the porpoising phenomenon at the start of the season – with their simulation tools not indicating it would be an issue – it’s altogether plausible that we may see some teams attempt to get an upper hand on their rivals and bring test parts towards the end of the season.

These could help them understand the implications of the new regulations, just as they did at the end of the 2020 season.

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