Mercedes struggling to balance pace and porpoising

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton speaking with Mercedes engineers in testing. Bahrain March 2022

Lewis Hamilton speaking with Mercedes engineers in testing. Bahrain March 2022

Mercedes are finding it a challenge balancing performance versus porpoising, that’s according to the team’s trackside engineering director Andy Shovlin.

Porpoising is the gimmick word of this year’s pre-season as the teams have all found their all-new cars bouncing on the straights, first in Spain and now in Bahrain.

Porpoising is a consequence of using ground effect aerodynamics being used to create downforce.

The car is pushed down onto the track by the downforce and, as it gets closer to the ground, the underfloor aero stalls.

When that happens the car rises off from the track, which leads to the underfloor aero kicking in, and again the car is pushed into the ground. So it continues in an up and down motion, porpoising.

The problem seems to be get worse the fast the car goes, forcing the teams, including Mercedes, to try to find a balance between pace and porpoising.

“We’re exploring a range of set-up options to try and improve the bouncing,” said Shovlin. “We have some directions that are able to improve this but finding the right balance between the bouncing and performance is clearly the challenge.

“We still have lots of work ahead of us but the car has been running reliably which has helped us get good mileage in and run our programme.”

Speaking prior to the Bahrain test, F1 managing director Ross Brawn said that this was a problem that the teams would likely have to find a compromise for.

“I think where they will face a challenge is that I suspect the solutions may be cutting back on performance a little bit,” he said, “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.”

Hamilton, who covered 47 laps on Friday afternoon, finishing P5 as he focused on low-fuel runs in the W13, admitted that the “bouncing” was making it difficult out on track.

His best time for day two, a 1:34.141, was almost a full second down on Kevin Magnussen’s late-night solo lap time in the Haas VF-22.

He said: “We’re just working through lots of different scenarios trying to figure out how to hold onto the downforce and not have it bouncing as it was in the last test.

“I think everyone is probably in a similar boat. Some have managed to get around it in a better way. It’s just difficult out there.

“It’s bumpy, it’s slippery, it’s sandy. In the morning it’s way too hot. Afternoon it’s just gusty.


“It’s tough [to drive]. You can see on the onboards tankslappers left, right and centre, then bouncing and bumping.

“[The car is] not quite happy at the moment but we’re trying to tame it.”


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