Following the Azerbaijan GP the FIA have issued a technical directive to the teams in an attempt to address the extreme bouncing certain cars displayed in Baku. The issue is unlikely to be as bad in Canada despite the circuit not being as smooth as the likes of Barcelona and Silverstone.
The FIA directive will see the teams forced to hand over the data they collect as the cars run on track. Key information like ride height and the virtual forces each F1 car suffers will hopefully begin to build a picture of why the bouncing occurs and is so variable across the field.
Haas boss Gunther Steiner hopes the data collection will provide clarification on what has been the hot topic to date of the 2022 season.
“We need to measure exactly what it is. I think some of the cars are pretty bad, but there’s a solution – just raise the ride height. But then you go slow – who wants to go slow?”
Mercedes have been particularly vocal about this issue with Toto Wolff in Baku calling on the FIA to “look again” at the regulations.
That said Steiner is against any mid-season car design regulation changes as he observed, “I don’t know how many years ago when in the middle of the season we had a change of tyres, [which is] something like this.”
“If you change [the design regulations] fundamentally, you could change the pecking order again completely.
“Is that really fair? No!”, Steiner concludes.
A change of sporting or technical regulations mid season usually requires all the teams to agree, unless as Steiner referred to there is a “safety concern”.
In 2013 there were a number of teams who experienced ‘mystery’ exploding tyres. This climaxed at Silverstone with 6 tyre explosions during the race. The race director at the time admitted he’d considered throwing the red flag.
Some teams didn’t agree, but the FIA allowed Pirelli to set higher minimum tyre pressures and made compound changes mid season on safety grounds.
Steiner believes this kind of intervention over the ‘porpoising’ is unfair and following the data collection there are a number of alternatives open to the FIA without forcing the car designs to be altered. Something Mercedes has lobbied for.
“I think the measurement of this [porpoising] is to find where it is dangerous without changing the regulations…. To find the limit…. Saying if you are above this threshold….I don’t know what…. But give a penalty.”
When asked what the penalty could be the Haas boss shrugged, “I have no idea and gave’t looked into it.”
The reality is that the measurements the FIA take this weekend would provide different results if taken at a different track on a different day.
So until team’s like Mercedes develop their cars to stop bouncing, this data collection will most likely be required at each of the remaining GP’s this season.
The team is unlikely to be given the choice to run a car which bounces beyond the new agreed limit simply because the FIA have chosen to deal with this on safety grounds. Presumably if a team couldn’t demonstrate after the practice sessions the car was within the FIA bouncing limits, it would be disqualified from qualifying and the race.
If the penalty Steiner refers to is similar to the minimum tyres pressure regulation in 2013 – only for minimum height – this in effect will be like handing Mercedes a multi-second race penalty as their W13 car will lose significant performance.
It could be there is some division in the Mercedes AMG F1 team, where the drivers simply do not care about the ultimate performance of the car, but want it ‘drivable’ – even if slower.
George Russell quickly commented to Sky after the FIA directive was issued, stating, “It’s promising to see that they’ve made action on this straight away and it’s not taken them weeks and months and political decisions to change something like this.”
When it comes to safety, things need to be resolved asap.
“So I’m pleasantly…not surprised to see it come in so quick, but I think it’s good for everyone.”
Yet Russell appeared less concerned about performance drop off effects adding, “This is something that everyone thinks Mercedes is pushing for, but from a pure performance side of things we don’t really want change because if there’s change you never know if it’s going to go in your favour or against you.”
“It’s something that we as drivers have spoken about globally that we want change moving forward because what we went through last weekend just wasn’t sustainable.
“It doesn’t matter what boat you’re in, you’re either porpoising and you’re hitting the ground or you have no porpoising so you’re running the car very close to the ground. Either way you look at it, it’s not great.”
If the Brackley team has been putting pressure on their drivers to accept a car that is optimised for speed but significantly uncomfortable to drive, then the drivers look to have won the day.