The complex equation behind F1's porpoising clampdown

Formula 1 teams will use the British and Austrian GP weekends to prepare for an FIA clampdown on porpoising and grounding that will be implemented at the French GP.

The complex equation behind F1's porpoising clampdown

From the Paul Ricard event, the FIA will be measuring what it officially calls aerodynamic oscillations – and cars that do not comply within its limits will potentially face exclusion from races.

At the heart of the FIA's clampdown is a metric in the form of a complex equation that looks like something  discovered by Stephen Hawking or Albert Einstein, and which teams will now have to understand and comply with.

The porpoising clampdown was first signalled in a technical directive issued by FIA single-seater technical boss Nikolas Tombazis on the eve of the Canadian GP, amid some controversy about the timing.

Following discussions with the teams, notably with all the technical directors at a recent FIA technical advisory committee meeting, that technical directive (TD) has now been superseded.

An updated version was issued to teams in draft form on Thursday, and it was missing any reference to the extra floor stays that became such a contentious issue in Canada.

The significance of it being a draft version is that Tombazis remains open to receiving feedback from the teams by 12th July – but he stresses the substance of it is unlikely to change, and thus teams have to prepare for it to come into force for the French GP.

George Russell, Mercedes W13, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, in the pit lane

George Russell, Mercedes W13, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, in the pit lane

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

In the TD, Tombazis reiterated what he said in the earlier version, that safety is the key consideration of the exercise and that allows the FIA to introduce rule changes.

"It has become increasingly apparent from driver comments that excessive aerodynamic oscillations and car grounding can lead to severe pain, headaches, or loss of concentration, with the potential to cause a high-speed accident," he writes.

"They may also reduce the controllability of the car, thus increasing the chance of an accident. The FIA has therefore concluded that cars with excessive oscillations or high levels of grounding may be deemed to be of a 'dangerous construction', the term 'construction' here extending to cover matters such as the aerodynamic configuration of the car, or its mechanical set-up."

He stresses that under both the F1 technical regulations and the international sporting code "the stewards may disqualify a vehicle whose construction is deemed to be dangerous."

He then adds: "While in the future the FIA will consider implementing measures that will reduce the propensity of cars to exhibit such aerodynamic oscillations, in the short term, the FIA considers it the responsibility of the teams to ensure that their cars are safe at all times during a competition."

Two measures are being adopted to address the issue. Firstly there will be a stricter interpretation of Article 3.15.8.a of the technical regulations, which relates to plank stiffness and skid wear.

Some teams have been sceptical about how the cars of rivals have been bottoming so much this year and yet still meeting FIA approval post-race, and that some teams may have taken advantage of flexing limits.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, George Russell, Mercedes W13, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, George Russell, Mercedes W13, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Indeed Tombazis suggests that some teams may have been gaming the rules, noting that "we consider significant deformations over and above those accepted under Article 3.15.8.a…to be contrived to achieve significantly lower rideheights, and hence an indirect aerodynamic gain."

How the FIA will henceforth measure wear and flexing is outlined in great detail, including a draft of planned changes to the wording of the rules – changes that remain subject to approval by the World Motor Sport Council before can be applied in France.

More contentious is the second part of the clampdown, which is the creation of an aerodynamic oscillation metric, or AOM.

After studying the cars in Canada, the FIA has come up with the equation that the teams now have to comply with, which involves parameters such as the length of track used in the calculation, time and the vertical acceleration.

The key to it is the standard FIA external accelerometer that is fitted close to the centre of gravity of each car, and which communicates via the accident data recorder, or ADR.

Its signal will be used "to calculate the metric (AOM), which is a representation of the energy associated with instances of large vertical acceleration and is expressed in J/kg/100km."

The accelerometer will provide the FIA will real time data on the vertical acceleration for each car, and this will in turn be compared with the limit as prescribed by the FIA, which will be known as AOM.

This has been set initially as 10 J/kg/100km, and it may be revised "as more data becomes available, or if driver feedback suggests it is not enough".

In a sprint race or grand prix race the average value of the AOM (or AOMₘₑₐₙ) for each car will be calculated over "all the eligible laps".

Only what are considered to be actual racing laps by the FIA will be taken into account in order to create this average, so it won't include in- or out-laps, the first two laps after the start or a restart, any running behind a safety car or under the virtual safety car, or any laps run on wet or intermediate tyres.

It's made clear that teams face exclusion if they exceed the mandated FIA limit: "Any car whose AOMₘₑₐₙ exceeds the stipulated AOM will be reported to the stewards with the recommendation that they be excluded from the results of the sprint or race."

Aerodynamic Oscillation Metric

Aerodynamic Oscillation Metric

Photo by: Uncredited

However, in 2022 teams will have three "jokers" to play. They are allowed to exceed the limit by less than 20% at three races without being reported, giving them some extra leeway to get their cars to operate within the limits.

Tombazis conceded it's still early days for this initiative, and that there is still much to learn.

"In this first implementation of the AOM, the FIA recognises that it primarily addresses the issue of grounding, but not the issue of pure aerodynamic oscillations," he notes.

"More analysis needs to be carried out in order to best implement additional terms that will capture aerodynamic oscillations, provided of course they are proven to cause driver discomfort and safety issues.

"We stress that we expect the driving of F1 cars to be a physical exercise and that we are not aiming for what could be considered to be a 'smooth set-up'."

Tombazis also confirmed the FIA is considering the introduction of further sensors in order to get more accurate measurement of oscillations and calculation of the AOM.

It also intends to monitor sensors on drivers, such as in-ear accelerometers, as well as observing face camera images, although those will be for information only and won't have a regulatory impact.

So what of the longer term? The FIA hopes to make rule changes for 2023 that will reduce oscillations, with a downforce reduction understood to be on the agenda.

Tombazis notes: "It remains our objective to implement changes for 2023 which will inherently reduce the propensity of the cars to exhibit aerodynamic oscillations.

"In due course, teams will be asked to support these evaluations in CFD by performing a range of modifications on their car, and reporting back to the FIA their results."

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

In addition, the FIA intends to take another look at plank wear for 2023 and beyond.

"The plank-related restrictions outlined above aim to provide a level playing field between all the competitors, but it remains desirable to introduce a controlled and fair compliance for the bottom of the car," Tombazis writes.

"Certain competitors have proposed a concept whereby part of the plank could be constructed from a compliant standard material, e.g. rubber.

"We confirm that we remain very open to these proposals and will seek consensus amongst the teams for such a measure."

Read Also:

As noted, teams have the Silverstone and Red Bull Ring races to understand the FIA metric, measure how their own cars compare to it, and prepare to comply with the rules at Paul Ricard.

And assuming that the revised wording relating to planks is approved by the WMSC, they will have to comply with those requirements as well. It remains to be seen if and how any of the changes impact the competitive order - and indeed if all the teams are able to comply.

shares
comments
Horner: Red Bull made "very strong statement" by sacking Vips
Previous article

Horner: Red Bull made "very strong statement" by sacking Vips

Next article

F1 Grand Prix practice results: Sainz fastest in British GP on Friday

F1 Grand Prix practice results: Sainz fastest in British GP on Friday
The 10 stories to watch out for across the rest of the 2022 F1 season Plus

The 10 stories to watch out for across the rest of the 2022 F1 season

It’s 13 down, nine to go as the Formula 1 teams pause for breath in the summer break. But what can we expect to happen over the next three months from Belgium to Abu Dhabi? Here's the key storylines to keep an eye out for the rest of the 2022 season

The inconvenient truth about F1’s ‘American driver’ dream Plus

The inconvenient truth about F1’s ‘American driver’ dream

OPINION: The Formula 1 grid's wait for a new American driver looks set to continue into 2023 as the few remaining places up for grabs - most notably at McLaren - look set to go elsewhere. This is despite the Woking outfit giving tests to IndyCar aces recently, showing that the Stateside single-seater series still has some way to go to being seen as a viable feeder option for F1

Formula 1
Aug 17, 2022
How a bad car creates the ultimate engineering challenge Plus

How a bad car creates the ultimate engineering challenge

While creating a car that is woefully off the pace is a nightmare scenario for any team, it inadvertently generates the test any engineering department would relish: to turn it into a winner. As Mercedes takes on that challenge in Formula 1 this season, McLaren’s former head of vehicle engineering reveals how the team pulled of the feat in 2009 with Lewis Hamilton

Formula 1
Aug 15, 2022
The under-fire F1 driver fighting for his future Plus

The under-fire F1 driver fighting for his future

Personable, articulate 
and devoid of the usual
 racing driver airs and graces,
 Nicholas Latifi is the last Formula 1 driver you’d expect to receive death threats, but such was the toxic legacy of his part in last year’s explosive season finale. And now, as ALEX KALINAUCKAS explains, he faces a battle to keep his place on the F1 grid…

Formula 1
Aug 13, 2022
The strange tyre travails faced by F1’s past heroes Plus

The strange tyre travails faced by F1’s past heroes

Modern grand prix drivers like to think the tyres they work with are unusually difficult and temperamental. But, says  MAURICE HAMILTON, their predecessors faced many of the same challenges – and some even stranger…

Formula 1
Aug 12, 2022
The returning fan car revolution that could suit F1 Plus

The returning fan car revolution that could suit F1

Gordon Murray's Brabham BT46B 'fan car' was Formula 1 engineering at perhaps its most outlandish. Now fan technology has been successfully utilised on the McMurtry Speirling at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, could it be adopted by grand prix racing once again?

Formula 1
Aug 11, 2022
Hamilton's first experience of turning silver into gold Plus

Hamilton's first experience of turning silver into gold

The seven-time Formula 1 world champion has been lumbered with a duff car before the 2022 Mercedes. Back in 2009, McLaren’s alchemists transformed the disastrous MP4-24 into a winning car with Lewis Hamilton at the wheel. And now it’s happening again at his current team, but can the rate of progress be matched this year?

Formula 1
Aug 11, 2022
Why few could blame Leclerc for following the example of Hamilton’s exit bombshell Plus

Why few could blame Leclerc for following the example of Hamilton’s exit bombshell

OPINION: Ferrari's numerous strategy blunders, as well as some of his own mistakes, have cost Charles Leclerc dearly in the 2022 Formula 1 title battle in the first half of the season. Though he is locked into a deal with Ferrari, few could blame Leclerc if he ultimately wanted to look elsewhere - just as Lewis Hamilton did with McLaren 10 years prior

Formula 1
Aug 9, 2022