Following a lot of complaints from drivers last week in Baku about the effect of the cars ‘bouncing’ the FIA acted swiftly by issuing a technical directive to measure and then control “vertical oscillations”. However, there may be legal issues ahead for the F1 governing body due to their hast wording in the TD.
Here is the statement from the FIA in full.
Following the eighth round of this year’s FIA Formula One World Championship, during which the phenomenon of aerodynamic oscillations (“porpoising”) of the new generation of Formula 1 cars, and the effect of this during and after the race on the physical condition of the drivers was once again visible, the FIA, as the governing body of the sport, has decided that, in the interests of the safety, it is necessary to intervene to require that the teams make the necessary adjustments to reduce or to eliminate this phenomenon.
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:
- Closer scrutiny of the planks and skids, both in terms of their design and the observed wear
- 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.
In addition to these short-term measures, the FIA will convene a technical meeting with the teams in order to define measures that will reduce the propensity of cars to exhibit such phenomena in the medium term.
The FIA has decided to intervene following consultation with its doctors in the interests of safety of the drivers. In a sport where the competitors are routinely driving at speeds in excess of 300km/h, it is considered that all of a driver’s concentration needs to be focused on that task and that excessive fatigue or pain experienced by a driver could have significant consequences should it result in a loss of concentration. In addition, the FIA has concerns in relation to the immediate physical impact on the health of the drivers, a number of whom have reported back pain following recent events.
Teams are already voicing concerns that the values generated in Friday two practice sessions today will not provide a comprehensive picture of the nature of each car’s design and setup and therefore no ride heights will be enforceable tomorrow for qualifying until more data is collected.
The cars are in Parc firm after qualifying so no changes to dampers, springs and ride height is allowable then as directed by other FIA regulations.
One of the AMUS writers with the twister handle ‘Tami’ has noted there could be legal disputes arising from the hasty wording of the technical directive.
The TD sets the parameters for the FIA to investigate the “phenomenon of aerodynamic oscillations (‘porpoising’). However most teams are on top of this now.
There could then be a legal dispute over the exact nature of the ‘bouncing’ phenomenon.
Early in the season the cars were behaving quite differently than in Baku. The ‘porpoising’ was at a much slower oscillation rate. The current phenomenon is less to do with the aerodynamic design but the downforce levels the teams choose to run combined with the stiffness of the car setup along with ride height.
This will surely be a minefield for the FIA to navigate. If a car has failed to meet the maximum vertical oscillations the FIA only really can mandate an increase in ride height for that particular team.
However, one team insider pointed out the suspension tracks are limited as to the range of height they can be adjusted to.
So the mooted “10mm” mandated height raise by the FIA may not even be possible.
The what would happen, would the team be excluded from qualifying and the race?
Tami writes, “Mercedes has a package for Montreal that will reduce the bouncing. This was already planned before the TD. The floor was stiffened and further slots were added to the edges. The FIA’s offer to add a second support strut was gratefully accepted.”
Given Mercedes were the worst offender in Baku and the Montreal circuit, while not flat, is way less bumpy than in Azerbaijan could see the latest FIA intervention moot anyway.