Porpoising TD ‘changes the game for the worse for Mercedes’

Michelle Foster
Mercedes prepare to send Lewis Hamilton out. Spain, May 2022.

The Mercedes crew prepare to send Lewis Hamilton out onto the track. Spain, May 2022.

The FIA’s new technical directive to limit porpoising is not a boon for Mercedes, rather it is bad news say Formula 1 pundits.

This year’s championship has seen porpoising become a part of Formula 1, a consequence of ground effect aerodynamics.

But while initially it was only the Mercedes drivers and Carlos Sainz who complained about it, the bouncing in Monaco and again in Baku led to other drivers voicing their concerns, worried about their long-term health.

Pierre Gasly said he didn’t want to be using a cane when he was 30 while Daniel Ricciardo said the “shaking of the brain and the spine” cannot be good for a driver.

The FIA has now stepped in, announcing a new technical directive on the eve of the Canadian GP which will see motorsport’s governing body implement a “quantitative limit for acceptable level of vertical oscillations”.

Any team exceeding that, of which Mercedes are the more likely, will have to raise the ride height of the car to protect the drivers.

But while the drivers may be more comfortable with a higher ride height in play, it will cost them downforce and pace with Mercedes and their bouncing W13 expected to be the hardest hit.

“I don’t think this helps, in the short-term, Lewis Hamilton at all,” Sky Sports’ Craig Slater said.

“What they’re saying is that you must not allow your car to vibrate like this.

“Teams that don’t have a problem with it won’t have to make any changes.

“Teams like Mercedes, whose car bounces up and down, are effectively going to have to raise the height of the car, that will stop the bouncing and it will also slow the car down.

“So, actually, in the shorter term this doesn’t look like it’s going to help Lewis Hamilton or Mercedes at all.”

F1 journalist Edd Straw agrees.

He told The Race that the FIA’s TD is “not a good outcome for the team and could mean more bad news for the performance of the Mercedes W13.

“Chances are, this move from the FIA could force it to compromise the set-up, and therefore pace, even more while others don’t have to. That does tackle the fundamental issue of the effect on the drivers, but it gives Mercedes yet more problems.”

He does, however, feel that motorsport’s governing body doesn’t have any other options.

“That the extent of the problem varies from team to team proves the regulations don’t fundamentally mean the drivers have to be exposed to potentially damaging ride, so this is an elegant way to react to it,” he added.

“But while it changes the game for the worse for Mercedes for now, the team’s primary objective remains unchanged. It must get its bouncing problems under control.”