McLaren downplay limited porpoising advantage

Michelle Foster
Fernando Alonso, Alpine, follows Lando Norris, McLaren. Spain, February 2022.

Fernando Alonso, Alpine, follows Lando Norris, McLaren, on day one in Barcelona. Spain, February 2022.

With a car that seems to suffer from less porpoising than its rivals, James Key says McLaren can’t say for definite if that’s an “advantage or not”.

Hitting the track in Spain many of the teams found their cars bouncing up and down at the end of the straights in a phenomenon known as porpoising.

A by-product of ground effect aerodynamics, as the downforce pushes the car into the ground the aero stalls. When that happens the car lifts back up off the ground and that then leads to the aero kicking in again.

As that continues, the car moves up and down – thus it is called porpoising – and the phenomenon was widely seen again on the first day of testing in Bahrain, too.

“We’ve experienced a little bit of that,” McLaren technical director Key said as per GPFans.

“You get into an oscillation, which can even be set off by a bump, then you get this little instability down very low and the car comes up and picks up the downforce again.

“It’s a factor of how these cars can work. It’s not to say it’s not fixable as there are elements of set-up you can use to try and improve that.”

Fixing it is exactly what McLaren’s rivals will be trying to do at this week’s three-day test in Bahrain, the last pre-season outing before the season starts.

McLaren are said to have already found a rather simple solution by means of a “slot trick” in the floor of the car with Key believing it is only a matter of time before the rest of the teams figure something out.

But while it may appear on the surface that McLaren’s minimal porpoising has to be an advantage, Key says only time will tell how that plays out.

“I suppose it helps if you’re not suffering from it dramatically,” he said, “in that you can have a bit more flexibility.

“There have been a few videos going around of cars really going off. I think the Ferrari was one, for example, but also on day one, it appeared to be the most stable car.

“So I guess everyone is finding the right place to be at the moment, whether it’s an advantage or not I guess will play out as to how far you can push your set-up or aero development.”

F1 managing director Ross Brawn says he was “surprised” by how the teams have been caught out by porpoising as he would have thought the tech gurus would have know that it is par for the course with ground effect aerodynamics.

And that they would have already found solutions during their wind tunnel tests.

He said: “I thought they would have anticipated it from their wind tunnel work, but you can see on the track that some people have already come to terms with it, so there are solutions out there.


“I think where they will face a challenge is that I suspect the solutions may be cutting back on performance a little bit, and the strongest performance may put them on the edge [of porpoising] – but that is a decision for the teams to make on how they set the car up.”


PlanetF1 Verdict


McLaren downplay potential porpoising advantage

James Key has downplayed McLaren's potential porpoising advantage.