The FIA’s Nikolas Tombazis has addressed concerns that bumps are causing performance issues – including crashes – for cars on track.
Since the move to ground-effect cars and the resultant floor suction effect creating downforce, the importance of having smooth circuit surfaces has never been more important – particularly with low ride heights and stiff suspensions allowing for little compliance over bumps.
Recently, both Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz suffered crashes due to bumps catching them out at high speed – Norris crashed out early in the Las Vegas Grand Prix when he hit a bump while his tyres were still below optimal temperature, while Sainz spun off into the barriers in practice in Abu Dhabi after a bump disrupted his ground effect.
Nikolas Tombazis: FIA would rather the cars run a little bit higher
An obvious solution to combat the issue is obviously to run cars a little higher off the ground but, as the teams use ride height as a means of generating performance, there can only be so much say the FIA has over that decision.
Speaking to media in Abu Dhabi, the FIA’s head of single-seaters Nikolas Tombazis said, in an ideal world, the cars would run a little higher, but the FIA’s main focus is on ensuring the tracks avoid bumps in inopportune places that can contribute to destabilising a car.
“We do need to make sure circuits, generally speaking, avoid features which may cause that,” he said, as quoted by Motorsport.com.
“It’s a thin line between if maybe there is the possibility for the circuit to sort out some features in detail, and where the teams may just need to raise the car a bit more.
“We obviously will try to fix these areas of the circuits. Are the cars too low? Yes, we would rather they were running a bit higher.
“But the inherent characteristic of a ground effect car is that it tends to have more performance running low. So that’s something that I don’t think we can easily avoid.”
Nikolas Tombazis hints at standardised planks and skid blocks
At last October’s United States Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were both disqualified from the race due to excessive plank wear – a notable detail being that the two failed cars represented 50 per cent of the total checked for excessive plank wear.
The plank is used to monitor ride height, with the ‘wooden’ plank not permitted to be worn below 9mm for any reason – both Hamilton and Leclerc’s planks had exceeded this wear rate.
With the stewards unable to check every single car, with a high likelihood other cars may have fallen foul of the rule had they been checked, the talk of having a standardised plank and skid block is something that would help speed up post-race scrutineering.
But the idea, given its possibility to be used as a performance differentiator, has been resisted in the past – but will likely come up before the F1 Commission ahead of the more sweeping rule changes being introduced for 2026.
“Sometimes, we want to do things but we still need to go through governance,” Tombazis said.
“The teams need to vote for it – and we don’t have enough support. So, for 2026, we believe we need to simplify very much that area.”