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Formula 1

FIA intervenes on F1 car porpoising for ‘safety’ reasons

by Edd Straw
3 min read

The FIA has moved to take action on the problem of Formula 1 cars porpoising and bouncing amid concerns about the safety of drivers by issuing a technical directive that will lead to the introduction of a limit on vertical oscillations a driver can be subjected to.

Complaints from the drivers reached new heights during the recent Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend, with George Russell, Lewis Hamilton, Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo among those to voice concerns about the effect the ride of the cars is having on the drivers.

An FIA statement said: “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.”

The FIA has referred to two short-term means by which the technical directive will allow it to tackle the problem.

The first is described as “closer scrutiny of the planks and skids, both in terms of their design and the observed wear”.

This would suggest that any evidence of the underside of the car hitting the ground too aggressively could lead to instructions to alter set-ups, which could include the need to raise the ride heights that would mitigate the savagery of the impacts.

The second part is described as “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 timescale for the implementation of this metric has not been made public, but The Race understands the FIA hopes it can be implemented immediately within the Canadian Grand Prix weekend.

There is no lack of data for the FIA to refer to, as in addition to that gathered by the car the drivers also wear an in-ear accelerometer that can measure the forces they are subjected to.

The FIA has also indicated that wider rule changes will be considered. It “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”.

Safety is the primary reason for this intervention, with the FIA also citing the potential effect of these oscillations in terms of the driver’s concentration. Such safety concerns make it possible to make immediate changes to the way that the regulations are applied.

The FIA has also expressed concerns about what it calls the “physical impact” on the drivers.

“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.”

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