Given the usual ponderous approach of the FIA to change it was a huge surprise for many F1 commentators that the Ben Sulayem’s new governance regime released a technical directive just days after “bouncing Baku” in response to driver complaints. Whilst the directive doesn’t detail the exact action the FIA will take, it does state there will be strict monitoring of the vertical G’s the drivers a re suffering from ‘porpoising’.
Mid-season rules changes are rare because they usually require the full agreement of all the competitors which is nigh on impossible to achieve. However, for issues of ‘safety’ the FIA can act unilaterally at anytime.
Max Verstappen has responded strongly to the FIA directive telling RACER today, “I think it’s a bit disappointing that again there is a rule change mid-season, I would say,”
The Red Bull driver believes the change has come about due to Mercedes constant complaining for most of the season about the new F1 car ‘ground effect’ design regulations.
”It’s not even about affecting us more or less than other teams, but it shouldn’t be that one team is complaining a lot and suddenly then they change the regs around it.
“I think there are a lot of teams that actually did an amazing job to not have these kind of issues, so it is possible to drive around it.
However, Max may protest the principle of the mid season regulation change but it appears may not understand the exact effect the regulation will have.
“If you raise your car then you won’t have these issues, but you lose performance,” continued Verstappen
“But if you can’t design the car properly for that then that’s your fault, it’s not the regs’ fault. For me that is a bit of a shame.”
And this is the surprise.
The FIA are not mandating redesigning the cars, simply monitoring their performance during the Friday practice sessions and as Max observed, forcing teams to raise their ride height to ensure a maximum vertical G is not breached. It is this force that is causing the drivers distress.
Mercedes clearly ran their car far lower than Red Bull in Baku and were third quickest. However, their car suffered the worst ‘bouncing’ and clearly had the technical directive been in force last week in Azerbaijan, Mercedes would have been forced by the FIA to raise the ride height to reduce the discomfort for the drivers.
Verstappen concludes, ”Of course every track is different, too, but I think it’s a bit of a shame to change it mid-season and clearly teams have shown you can drive normally, or at least with a lot less issues than some other teams.”
The fact each race track affects each team differently will cause a headache for the teams and the FIA because much of Friday practice session will be about setting the car up for reduced ‘porpoising’ and not long run simulations and one lap qualifying pace simulations.
The data the FIA will need to trawl will not be insubstantial to establish the “maximum vertical oscillations” allowable and for each car what that means in terms of ride height settings.