Mercedes George Russell has been complaining about the design of the 2022 cars for most of the season. The level of ‘bouncing’ increased significantly in Baku on the bumpy street circuit for the Azerbaijan GP. Such was the discomfort driving the Mercedes W13 Lewis Hamilton shrieked at one point over the radio “my back is killing me” and the vibrations meant he lost sensation in his backside thinking the seat had gone cold.
The 2022 F1 car design philosophy has been significantly changed in this seasons regulations son the cars can follow each other more closely through ‘ground effect’ aerodynamics. This uses air flow on the underside of the car to create a vacuum effect sucking the
For teams whose cars are not well designed, when they increase rear wing downforce on, this causes the car to bounce.
Following Baku qualifying Russell told reporters, ”I think it is just a matter of time before we see a major incident,” he said. “A lot of us can barely keep the car in a straight line over these bumps and we are going around the last two corners at 300km/h [in Baku] and we are bottoming out and you can visibly see on the tarmac how close the cars are running to the ground.”
After the race Toto Wolff called for the FIA to ‘look again’ at the regulations though Red Bull’s Christian Horner disagreed.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner significantly disagreed stating, ”You have a choice where you run your car, don’t you?” Horner said.
Speaking to those claiming the ‘bouncing’ was a safety issue – which the FIA can intervene over without all the teams agreeing, Horner observed, “You should never run a car that’s unsafe. But I think that’s more for the technical guys. Because certain cars have issues. And there are some cars that have very few issues.”
“So it would seem unfair to penalise the ones that have done a decent job, versus the ones that have perhaps missed the target slightly.”
The teams suffering the bouncing the most could raise the height of their cars which would alleviate the bouncing, but make the car slower. It appeared the team running their car the lowest in Baku was Mercedes, who suffered the largest amount of porpoising.
Well the FIA announced in the past two hours they will be looking at the issue of car design and porpoising, however the action they propose may not be exactly how Mercedes thought they’d deal with it.
A statement from the FIA read: “A Technical Directive has been issued to give guidance to the teams about the measures the FIA intends to take to tackle the problem. These include:
“1. Closer scrutiny of the planks and skids, both in terms of their design and the observed wear.
2. The definition of a metric, based on the car’s vertical acceleration, that will give a quantitative limit for acceptable level of vertical oscillations. The exact mathematical formula for this metric is still being analysed by the FIA, and the Formula 1 teams have been invited to contribute to this process.”
The Mercedes car was generating vertical oscillations creating 6G as calculated by sky analysts. Other cars in Baku had vertical G Forces much lower than Mercedes.
The new metric being developed by the FIA will most likely set a maximum vertical G-Force rating but this will need to be monitored track by track as the bouncing is dependent on a number of circuit specific characteristics.
For example in Baku the longest straight on the calendar combined with the cars running higher rear wing setups for the ‘Castle section’ conspired to cause this cars to bounce significantly.
Conversely the high speed corners on the smooth track of Barcelona saw the Mercedes car least troubled by its flawed aerodynamics.
So the cars will presumably may be forced to run FIA devices taking readings during practice 1 and 2 and presumably the teams who fail to comply with the bouncing limits the FIA set will be forced to raise the ride height – possibly by running a thicker plank.
Mercedes having repeatedly complained to the FIA may have been hoping the FIA would act differently. A forced change in F1 car design specifications would reduce the Ferrari and Red Bull advantages. However, if minimum team by team ride heights are enforced, the Red Bull car already rides significantly further from the track than the Mercedes and is unlikely to be affected by any new maximum oscilation limit.
So had this process been in force in Baku, Mercedes would have been nobbled and forced to run their car at a ride height which meets the vital G maximum.
Running the car higher simply reduces the grip from the ‘ground effect’ airflow under the car, reducing mechanical grip and the overall performance of the car is affected.
Further, it will longer term make it more difficult for the Mercedes team designers to get the proper data they need to develop the car in the right direction because their car will not be subject to the same ‘ground effect’ airflows whilst the ride height is raised.
MAybe this will be a “better the devil you knew” scenario for Mercedes whose persistent complaining to the FIA about the 2022 car design – could well backfire.