Carlos Sainz Jr has thus far been soundly beaten by his team mate Charles Leclerc at Ferrari during this Formula 1 season of new regulations; the Spanish driver blasts the car and regulations for causing injury due to porpoising caused by the car and team running the ride height too low. Clearly, this driver is not cut from the same cloth as those from yesteryear in F1.
This year there has been a significant change in the regulations governing car design. Due to pressure from Mercedes in particular the FIA has not significantly altered the car design regulations since 2014. This has been one of the longest periods in F1 where the car design regulations have stayed broadly the same. The proof for this is 8 consecutive Mercedes constructor titles, never before seen in F1 history.
The FIA had previously regularly changed the regulations every 2-4 years since 1960, which resulted in no one team dominating the sport for the best part of a decade. The best ever run of constructor titles was Ferrari 1999-2005 and prior to that McLaren who won 4.
Unfortunately this big regulation change in car design means many of the the modern F1 drivers don’t understand what F1 has been for over 70 years and Carlos Sainz outburst demonstrates this explicitly.
When asked about the new F1 car design regulations, Ferrari’s Sainz commented in Barcelona. “How much toll should a driver pay for his back and his health in an F1 career with this kind of car philosophy?”
The 2022 regulations for F1 car design have sought to remove some of the aerodynamics from the top of the car that create huge air vortices behind, which in turn make it difficult for the following car to stay close. So the new rules have reverted to a hybrid solution for aero that brings ‘ground effect’ downforce back into the equation.
Colin Chapman with his Lotus 79 first evolved the ‘ground effect’ concept which uses the air flow under the car to create a vacuum to suck the car down onto the track. This aero philosophy does not create the ‘dirty air’ of the recent modern cars that deliver rear wing vortices making it difficult for following and overtaking.
The ground effect cars ran for several years from the 1978 Lotus 79 to the famous Brabham ‘fancar’, the Ligier JS11, the Williams FW07 and the Brabham BT49C. These cars were difficult to drive because their downforce was primarily created by the vacuum underneath the car the stuck them to the track. A bump or uneven surface would disturb this aerodynamic effect and the cars would break away from the drivers in an uncontrollable manner.
Due to the new design regulations for 2022 we have seen teams car designs produce cars the ‘bounce’ because their ground effect aerodynamics are not up to scratch.
But is it really the regulations that have created this?
Lando Norris observes it is the choices the teams make in the setup of their cars that increases this bouncing. “There are also many ways for them to stop porpoising. Like lifting your rear ride height 20mm.”
F1 cars have always had design envelopes that maximise their ride height setup. It is simply because some teams are pushing that envelope too far given their poor car design that creates the ‘porpoising’ problem.
Maybe some teams have to accept they have delivered car designs that are inferior to others and have to run with a higher ride height setup, rather than complain the regulations are the issue.
Lando Norris also rejects the current ‘ground effect’ car regulations are of a safety concern stating; “I would have thought you’d have much worse effects from crashing a car at 50 or 60G like some of us have done.”
In reality, Carlos Sainz is getting beaten easily by his team mate and making excuses for his sore back because of the FIA regulations suggests he knows little of what it used to take to be an F1 driver.