Aerodynamicist worries we only saw ‘tip of the iceberg’

Mark Scott
Charles Leclerc drives the F1-75. Barcelona February 2022

Ex-F1 aerodynamicist Jean-Claude Migeot fears we have only seen “the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to the porpoising effect on the F1 2022 cars.

With the new Formula 1 regulations being re-built on the foundation of ground effect aerodynamics, the first three days of unofficial testing in Barcelona saw the return of a phenomenon not seen since the 1980s in the sport.

Porpoising is the result of downforce pushing the car down onto the track which causes the underfloor aero to stall.

As that happens the car rises off from the track, which leads to the underfloor aero kicking in, and the car again being pushed into the ground.

Not all drivers and teams are suffering the same with the porpoising effect, but Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has said the oscillations experienced in his F1-75 were enough to make him feel “a little bit sick” while analyst Jolyon Palmer observed that Aston Martin seemed to be struggling the most with it.

McLaren are reasonably confident the porpoising effect can be eliminated in the first five or six races of the new F1 2022, but Migeot, who used to be the lead aerodynamicist at Tyrell, had a gloomier outlook.

“The remedies on the mechanical side, knowing that active suspension is forbidden the number of things that are not there, you are left with very little freedom or parameters to play with,” Migeot told Autosport.

“You cannot ignore the optimisation of the static forces that put the car in the best position for whatever corner you choose. That is strategic.

“On the suspension side, unless you’re making some invention – like at the time of the skirts, an inerter could be there and maybe that can help, but it’s forbidden again.

“So that solution is in the windtunnel. The solution is looking at these forces and optimising them together with static forces.

“I’m afraid this will take time, because we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg in Barcelona.”

 

Migeot went on to add that the porpoising effect will only get worse on track surfaces which are bumpy and suspects the FIA may have to intervene.

“It’s going to be tragic on a bumpy track, and it’s going to be tragic in racing, because when you’re hard braking for overtaking you’re going to excite this phenomenon a lot,” he said.

“So we’re maybe going to see very bad things. I think the FIA will react before that. If nobody has time to find the best solution, the FIA will have to react.

“I hope to be wrong, of course, because it will be a nasty surprise.”

Mercedes driver George Russell has suggested the return of active suspension in Formula 1 would eliminate the issue, with ex-F1 World Champion Damon Hill agreeing that it would solve it with “a click of the fingers”.

Russell’s solution to porpoising

George Russell believes that he has the solution to porpoising.