Hill: Russell’s active suspension call ‘absolutely right’

Henry Valantine
George Russell on-track for Mercedes. Spain, February 2022.

George Russell on-track for Mercedes on day one in Barcelona. Spain, February 2022.

Damon Hill believes George Russell is “absolutely right” to say the banned active suspension system would end porpoising problems with Formula 1’s new cars.

Drivers had complained of their discomfort after the cars were shown bouncing up and down on the straights as the ground effect aerodynamics take hold, pulling the car towards the track surface in a different way to their predecessors, which causes the “porpoising” effect on show in the three-day shakedown in Barcelona last week.

Some teams believe they have now got on top of the issue, but Russell thinks the electronic help would be a quick solution to the problems experienced in the cars’ first runs.

“I guess if active suspension was there, it could be solved with a click of your fingers. And the cars would naturally be a hell of a lot faster if we had that,” he said to Autosport.

Hill is in a unique position to be able to discuss active suspension, as he took to the track in 1993 in the Williams FW15C, which ran the system to near-unprecedented success.

Damon Hill drives the Williams FW15C. Hockenheim July 1993.
Damon Hill takes part in the German Grand Prix in the dominant Williams FW15C. Hockenheim July 1993.

The suspension was self-adjusting and automatic, which moved as per the driver’s requirements for corners and in a straight line, adjusting itself to offer optimum performance at all times – including stopping the cars from bottoming out where necessary.

The 1996 World Champion partnered Alain Prost in the dominant Williams car, which was head-and-shoulders above its competitors to a degree that it Hill and Prost took 15 pole positions out of 16, and 10 victories. When they crossed the line, neither driver finished lower than fourth place in any race that season.

So when it came to the Mercedes driver’s comments, Hill enthused about how the car used to work.

“He’s absolutely right,” he said on the F1 Nation podcast. “Because the brilliant thing about the active car was it could control much better the ride height of the car.


“So if you look at pictures of the car I drove in 1993, you’ll look at it and think, ‘wow, why is it on the floor?’

“It literally was measured… It could keep its distance from the ground to within half a millimetre, plus or minus.

“We didn’t have the [wind] tunnels that you have now on the 2022 car – we had a flat bottom. You could still generate downforce from that, provided you could control the height of the car from the ground, and normal springs and dampers struggle, because they’re passive.

“In other words, the greater the load on the car, the more they squash up and the stiffer they get, and the more likely they are to rebound.

“Whereas with the active car, the computer goes, ‘right, that’s close enough. We’ll just keep it there’, and off you go. It’s fantastic.”


Russell’s solution to porpoising

George Russell believes that he has the solution to porpoising.