How the FIA’s F1 porpoising clampdown will really work

The Canadian Grand Prix weekend has been dominated by the ongoing battle that Formula 1 teams are facing with porpoising.

How the FIA’s F1 porpoising clampdown will really work

In the wake of an especially brutal Baku race for a number of drivers – with Lewis Hamilton’s back pain highlighting the battering some are facing right now – intervention by the FIA in trying to eradicate the problem has added a fresh dimension to the debate.

In a technical directive sent on Thursday to teams by the FIA’s single-seater technical director Nikolas Tombazis, the governing body laid out its plans to fix porpoising and bouncing in a bid to try to help drivers.

And although F1’s TD are never officially published, here is how the FIA explained its plan to teams for both the immediate, short and long-term future.

Immediate car changes

One of the main difficulties teams have faced in curing porpoising has been trying to maintain a stable aero platform as downforce levels increase on the straights.

Matters have been complicated by some teams suffering from the floor edges flexing down as speeds go up – which leads to an increase in downforce levels.

This in theory sounds great, but the reality is that the increased downforce accelerates the extent to which the car is pushed down on to the track, so therefore makes the porpoising worse.

It was this issue that prompted the pre-season decision to allow teams to run a single floor stay to help strengthen the edges and limit the flexing.

Mercedes W13 floor detail

Mercedes W13 floor detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

From the Canadian Grand Prix, the FIA will allow two further measures to help teams make their floors stronger. They will be allowed an additional stay mounted further forwards of the one already adopted – which is something that Mercedes has introduced already.

Furthermore, teams will be allowed an additional thickness on the floor’s top surface – even if this breaks local regulations on curvature or if it protrudes beyond the volumes defined in the regulations.

If these changes do deliver a tangible benefit in helping address the porpoising, then the FIA will then propose a formal rule change that can be voted on by teams for approval by the World Motor Sport Council.

Bouncing metric

One of the things that the FIA wants to gather over the Canadian Grand Prix is whether a car can be determined to exhibit ‘excessive vertical accelerations’ as it bounces.

This will be analysed first through both closer inspection of the patterns of plank and skid wear on cars – as well as the ways that some teams are reducing the wear of their skids.

The FIA is also hoping to pull together what has been referred to as an Aerodynamic Oscillation Metric (AOM) – which will help it determine if cars are porpoising too much.

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This will be achieved through analysis of a sensor already fitted to cars near its centre of gravity to help measure vertical acceleration with the hope that an AOM figure can be agreed to set a maximum limit.

If this can be achieved over the next few races, then teams will be asked to calculate their own AOM over three consecutive laps in Saturday morning’s final free practice session while not using DRS (any laps not done at racing speed or following other cars will be discarded).

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT03, kicks up some sparks

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT03, kicks up some sparks

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

With this figure in play, teams will have to stick with their ride height values, vertical stiffness and aero configuration for the rest of the weekend.

The only exceptions to this will be raising the car up, if the weather changes, adjustments for cooling, tyre pressure changes or the adjustment of the front wing flap angle.

If a team cannot deliver a set-up that meets the AOM figure, they will be requested to produce a set-up sheet with the lowest AOM it can and raise the static ride height by 10mm.

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The penalty for not complying with the AOM number is clear. The FIA has warned teams that if cars bounce too much and go beyond limits laid down, then they will risk disqualification from an event.

This would be done until Article 1.3 of the 2022 F1 Technical Regulations which relates to ‘dangerous construction’. The rule states: “The stewards may exclude a vehicle whose construction is deemed to be dangerous.”

Should teams agree on the procedures for determining an AOM figure, which many within the paddock are sceptical of, then the FIA could try to deliver a metric for when the car is running on track.

Sparks kick up from the rear of Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36

Sparks kick up from the rear of Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Longer term changes

Whether or not sorting the AOM is a success or proves unworkable, the FIA is determined to produce better rules for 2023 and beyond that eradicates the porpoising problem.

It wants teams to support this push in CFD by testing potential modifications to the cars that could help reduce the propensity for the current generation of cars to bounce.

As options that could be looked at, Tombazis wrote: “Geometries that will be investigated could include the raising of the floor edges, the reduction of the floor platform, the elimination of the front edge wing, etc. We are also open to the possibility of allowing further stiffening of the floor, via an additional stay, should this be deemed beneficial.”

Talks are planned with teams at a forthcoming meeting with the technical directors with a view to starting the process for changes to come for next year.

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