Wolff: FIA had to protect teams from themselves with TD

Jamie Woodhouse
Toto Wolff, Mercedes, walks up the stairs. Canada, June 2022.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff walks up the stairs, with the team logo in the background. Canada, June 2022.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff supports the FIA’s decision to step in with a technical directive relating to the impact of porpoising.

After many drivers suffered a bumpy ride in Baku, concerns were raised about the long-term health impacts of the bouncing phenomenon associated with the 2022 ground-effect cars.

The grid was not quite united on the wish for the FIA to step in, Red Bull in particular lobbying it was up to the teams to manage the performance-related problem, but a technical directive released before the Canadian Grand Prix represented FIA action on the issue.

While the directive sets out new areas of scrutineering from the FIA, reports suggest the Canadian Grand Prix will be used for data-gathering rather than enforcement.

Nonetheless, Wolff welcomed the step, explaining it cannot be left to the teams to address the issue.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton seemed to be the driver worst affected in Baku, the porpoising causing him back pain.

Drivers in place for a practice start. Canada, June 2022.

Speaking to reporters on Friday in Montreal, Wolff said: “I think sometimes in F1, we need to be protected from ourselves. Everybody is chasing performance.

“And like many teams didn’t like the cost cap, and tried to fight against it, or fight regulations they deemed to be counter-productive for their own purposes, now we have a situation that the way the cars have been designed they are ground-effect cars.

“And as ground-effect cars did in the 1980s and 90s, these cars are porpoising. And to a higher or to a lesser degree with some of the teams. But as a matter of fact, there is a health issue with the drivers and that’s why we cannot just leave it to the teams to say ‘well, up to you to judge’.”

Porpoising had in particular been seen as a Mercedes issue in the early rounds of the 2022 campaign, the W13 underwhelming with the fix for porpoising being raising the ride height, although that means a loss of downforce and thus performance.

There are reports that as part of F1’s clampdown, teams may be forced to raise the ride height by 10 millimetres if they cannot reach the “safe set-up” which will be defined.

Wolff returned to the subject of this being about driver safety, saying performance should not be a reason to stand against changes.

“If all of us could have solved it, we would rather solve it then have the situation,” he affirmed.

“I think we all have a responsibility for our drivers. This is not an area where teams should push against the change just because they believe they have an advantage to it. It’s a ground-effect problem.

“Some of the teams that are in the front that haven’t had the problem, even their drivers have been vocal in the media such as Sergio [Perez, Red Bull]. And there is not one single driver out there that hasn’t felt the pain.

“So this is a health issue. And I see a strong FIA coming in with the necessary steps.”

In Baku, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner suggested drivers were being told to “b*tch” about the porpoising issue over the radio as “part of the game”.

And Wolff claimed the drivers suddenly have now become far less chirpy, leading him to believe the technical directive has proven teams had to be “protected from themselves”.

“We can already see drivers that have been pretty vocal about the pain and the blurred vision suddenly are less talkative about it,” Wolff stated.

“And that shows all teams have to be protected from themselves by regulatory change.”


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