FIA announces technical directive to reduce porpoising

Henry Valantine
The FIA logo. February 2008.

The logo of the FIA displayed.

The FIA has announced it is introducing a technical directive with the intention of reducing porpoising “in the interests of safety.”

The ‘bouncing’ sensation certain cars have been suffering has had a negative impact on the drivers, with Lewis Hamilton in visible pain when struggling to get out of his Mercedes in Azerbaijan last weekend – and Daniel Ricciardo adding that he was “not exaggerating”, given the pain he went through himself on the bumpy Baku circuit.

Pierre Gasly has also recently spoken out against the health concerns of porpoising, while the likes of Lando Norris said it is up to the teams to sort out the problem themselves, and that it is “not anything to complain about”, given the teams have the option to increase the ride height of their cars, at a cost to overall performance.

But the governing body has now intervened to address this issue, after conversations with doctors about how the drivers are being impacted by the cars bottoming out at high speed – and a technical meeting with the teams is due to take place in Canada about how the restrictions will be implemented.

The teams themselves will have to make any necessary changes in order to comply with the directive, rather than the FIA offering their own technical solution to the issue.

These measures have been introduced to help protect the “immediate physical impact on the health of the drivers, a number of whom have reported back pain following recent events”, acting on the ever-increasing calls to help the drivers escape the worst effects while racing.

A statement from the FIA read: “A Technical Directive has been issued to give guidance to the teams about the measures the FIA intends to take to tackle the problem. These include:

“1. Closer scrutiny of the planks and skids, both in terms of their design and the observed wear.

“2. 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.

“In addition to these short-term measures, the FIA 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.”

This change is likely to affect Mercedes in particular, with the reigning Constructors’ champions arguably the team suffering the most with porpoising on the grid.

With a limit in place about how much the cars are able to vertically oscillate, this means it any team exceeding it will have to raise their ride height in order to comply, which is likely to slow their cars down unless they find their own solution to porpoising.

‘Porpoising’ returned to the Formula 1 lexicon after the introduction of ground effect aerodynamics with the sport’s new regulations, which sees the cars now generate their downforce from underneath the front wing, in order to try and generate closer racing.

But that downforce generation comes by effectively ‘pulling’ the cars closer to the ground at high speed, which then causes the floor of the car to bottom out at high speed, before ‘jumping’ back up, and then the effect repeats itself.

The FIA statement added: “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.”