Why FIA porpoising change will negatively impact Mercedes

Henry Valantine
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton driving around a corner in Barcelona. Barcelona, May 2022.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix. Barcelona, May 2022.

The FIA introduced a new technical directive to help teams eliminate porpoising from their cars, but the changes will likely have a negative effect on Mercedes.

Mercedes have been vocal in their hopes for the FIA to introduce rules to potentially level the playing field when it came to the cars porpoising on straights, but the new technical directive does not make this the case.

Instead, the FIA has placed the responsibility on the teams themselves to eradicate the issue – be it through raising the ride height of their own cars or otherwise.

In general, put simply, the higher the cars are off the ground, the worse their performance will be.

The Mercedes W13 can lay claim to have been the car worst affected by porpoising so far this season, with Lewis Hamilton’s pain in his back evident after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in particular.

He admitted halfway through the race that “my back is killing me” – and the impact was there to see when he struggled to climb out of his car afterwards.

The new rules put in by the FIA include the provision to look at limiting the amount of vertical oscillations, or amount of times the cars move up and down, during a lap or a particular part of track.

This allows teams who come under that threshold to compete as they have been before, whereas others will have to adjust their car accordingly to comply with the rules.

Given how much the Mercedes has been affected by porpoising, this means it is likely they will have to run a higher car until they find a solution to their problem, which will limit the amount of performance they will be able to utilise – particularly around the bumpy surface around Montreal this weekend.

Hamilton and George Russell’s backs will likely be thankful for the limits imposed by the FIA, but their outright pace may suffer.

On the other side of the coin, Red Bull and Ferrari have not been suffering from porpoising to the same degree as Mercedes, and could well see their already significant advantage at the front of the field extended even further this weekend.

Team representatives will have the opportunity to give their input into the new technical directive, which has been brought in by the FIA on the grounds of safeguarding “immediate physical impact on the health of the drivers, a number of whom have reported back pain following recent events.”

A portion of the FIA’s statement on the new rules read: “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.”

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