Mercedes’ Allison deems FIA porpoising solution as ‘problematic’

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton on track during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend. Montreal, June 2022.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton on track during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend. Montreal, June 2022.

Mercedes’ Chief Technical Officer James Allison believes the FIA’s implementation of a solution for porpoising needs to be very transparent.

With porpoising becoming the dominant topic in Formula 1 as a result of the severe issues seen on some of the cars during last weekend’s race in Azerbaijan, particularly on the Mercedes W13, the FIA released a technical directive in the run-up to the Canadian Grand Prix.

The directive has told teams that measures are being introduced to reduce the effects of porpoising, with the governing body measuring the oscillations of each car to evaluate the level of vertical acceleration (ie. the G-forces) each car is generating on track.

Should a car fail to fall within the acceptable range as outlined by the FIA, the teams running the car will be told to make changes (such as raising the ride height) in order to reduce the level of porpoising after the second practice session. Should the issue fail to be rectified, those cars could face potential disqualification.

Allison, now the Chief Technical Officer for Mercedes after a promotion last year which handed the Technical Director role to Mike Elliott, said the solution imposed by the FIA isn’t quite optimal.

“I have to say that the general approach of saying ‘We’re going to come up with a metric and then, if you don’t fall the right side of that metric, we will impose upon you certain changes’, that is a tricky way forward,” Allison told Sky F1.

“At a very minimum, if that were the way forward, then the metric that is derived would need to be very transparently communicated, the data on which it is based very transparently available and everyone’s metric be live and continuously viewable by everyone.

“That would be a prerequisite or else we’re going to wind up in a really horrid situation where we’re told we must do something and we’re looking at another car that is bouncing and saying ‘What about them?’ to be told ‘Their metric is fine’.

“That would have to be all very much out in the open and – I think – a problematic way forward.”

Given that porpoising is an inescapable phenomenon caused by the use of ground effect, the teams chasing performance and coping with the bouncing has resulted in the excessive problems being encountered by some of the drivers.

With teams unlikely to ever take the performance hit caused by making changes to reduce porpoising, Allison said the governing body’s stance to enforce the changes is a much-needed intervention.

“It’s welcome the FIA are recognising that it’s not a happy situation,” he said, “where lap time and drivers’ health are in very sharp contrast with each other.

“As a sport, it is really helpful if that is recognised and we try to tiptoe our way out of the corner that the sport is wedged into at the moment.

“Certainly, we’re very keen on working very constructively with them, as will everyone else in the pitlane be. The general direction of travel of saying that this is a problem and we need to fix it as a sport, is extremely sensible.”