FIA takes measures to control porpoising

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FIA takes measures to control porpoising

Formula One’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), has announced a host of measures related to the ‘bouncing effect’ of the current-generation Formula One cars, commonly known as ‘porpoising’. The decision comes after numerous drivers spoke out about the physical pain caused by porpoising following the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

A number of drivers complained about neck and back pain following the race. Some even stated that they had difficulties to focus on the braking zones due to the continuous bouncing. 

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The FIA released a statement, which said:

Following the eighth round of this year’s FIA Formula One World Championship, during which the phenomenon of aerodynamic oscillations (“porpoising”) of the new generation of Formula One cars, and the effect of this during and after the race on the physical condition of the drivers was once again visible, the FIA, as the governing body of the sport, has decided that, in the interests of the safety, it is necessary to intervene to require that the teams make the necessary adjustments to reduce or to eliminate this phenomenon.

The FIA has decided to intervene following consultation with its doctors in the interests of safety of the drivers. In a sport where the competitors are routinely driving at speeds in excess of 300km/h, it is considered that all of a driver’s concentration needs to be focused on that task and that excessive fatigue or pain experienced by a driver could have significant consequences should it result in a loss of concentration.  In addition, the FIA has concerns in relation to the immediate physical impact on the health of the drivers, a number of whom have reported back pain following recent events.

Porpoising, which takes plan on the straight line of the tracks, is when the Formula One cars gain and lose downforce because of the ground-effect aerodynamics from the floor of the vehicle. Various teams have been plagued by the issue caused by the new regulations introduced at the start of the 2022 season, which has resulted in loss of pace. Reigning World Champions Mercedes have probably suffered the most as a result of porpoising, with the team losing pace on track. Both their drivers have been vocal about the physical discomfort and pain caused by the phenomenon as well. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly have also been vocal about the issue. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton also stated, post the race in Baku, that it was the most painful race of his career. 

Speaking about the issue, following the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. George Russell had said:

When they had the massively heavy footballs and there was research done and analysis done that there were health consequences for these chaps who were heading the ball and things were changed. F1 is the centre of innovation, there’s no reason why we can’t find a scientific solution for this.

The Technical Directive released by the FIA states the measures taken to handle the issue. The FIA states there will be:

  • Closer scrutiny of the planks and skids, both in terms of their design and the observed wear.
  • The definition of a metric, based on the car’s vertical acceleration, that will give a quantitative limit for acceptable level of vertical oscillations. The exact mathematical formula for this metric is still being analysed by the FIA, and the Formula One teams have been invited to contribute to this process.
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