Pat Symonds spotted an early sign that Red Bull were ‘on top’ of porpoising problems

Michelle Foster
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen at the French Grand Prix. Paul Ricard, July 2022.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen at the French Grand Prix. Paul Ricard, July 2022.

Pat Symonds says as soon as he saw the floor of the Red Bull RB18 back in pre-season testing last year, he knew they were “on top” of F1’s porpoising problems.

Last season Formula 1 welcomed the arrival of brand new cars onto the grid, the new generation feature simpler wings and using ground effect aerodynamics to create downforce.

Instead of the car being pushed onto the ground, by using ground effect aerodynamics it is effectively sucked. And that, well, sucked for some teams.

Mercedes led the way when it came to porpoising, their W13 suffering with more bouncing then most of their rivals. That had team boss Toto Wolff calling for changes, citing the long-term effect of the bouncing on the health of his drivers.

One team that was opposed to the FIA stepping in was Red Bull, Christian Horner saying each individual team should resolve their own issues. It was easy for him to say, Red Bull had no bouncing at all.

Symonds, F1’s chief technical officer, wasn’t surprised by that.

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Speaking at the Autosport International Show, where he took the stage with Alfa Romeo’s aerodynamic consultant Willem Toet, he revealed he knew they were on the top of the problem when he saw the car’s floor during last year’s pre-season testing.

“I think one of the things that’s interesting is that Willem described porpoising as an aerodynamics phenomena,” Symonds said.

“But there’s coupling, everything is coupled into the car, into the suspension, ect. It’s the structural dynamics, the suspension dynamics, and the aerodynamic effects.

“And in Barcelona, in testing at the beginning of ’22, I went and had a look at the cars, wandering around the garage. I had the advantage the rest of the technical directors in the pit lane have worked with me.

“But when I got to the Red Bull floor, and I saw it on a structural level, they are on top of this.”

The FIA did allow the teams to introduce stays at the Canadian Grand Prix, Mercedes grabbing hold of that idea as they tried to stabilise the car’s floor.

Toet explained why those helped, saying: “”The rules were changed to allow teams to add braces to stiffen up the floors, a temporary fix.

“You can imagine aerodynamically speaking, you want something that’s going to remain relatively stable.

“And if your floor is bouncing up and down and reducing the amount of air that can go underneath, then you will get the problem earlier.

“When you lose downforce you lose the pressure difference from surface and the floor springs back up again.”

Red Bull with their non-bouncing car romped to the championship double in 2022 while Mercedes, with their porpoising W13, claimed just one win late in the season when it appeared they had resolved the issue.

It, however, was back at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

This year the FIA have tweaked the floor regulations, raising the diffuser throat height as well as the floor edges by 15mm, in the hope of minimising the problem.