Formula 1’s governing body, the FIA, says it is taking steps for safety reasons to reduce the high-speed bounces that have plagued drivers this season.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton described the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as “the most painful” he had ever experienced and many of his rivals have also expressed concern about him.
The FIA has now issued a technical directive to teams setting out how it plans to tackle the ‘porpoise’.
Round nine of the 2022 season takes place in Canada this weekend.
In a statement, the governing body said it decided to intervene after “consulting with their doctors in the interest of driver safety.”
He added: “In a sport where competitors routinely drive at speeds in excess of 300 km/h, it is considered that a driver’s full concentration should 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 regarding the immediate physical impact on the health of drivers, some of whom have reported back pain following recent events.”
The ‘porpoise’ is caused by the floor of the car being sucked so close to the ground at a speed that downforce is temporarily lost until the car’s ride height is increased, before being lowered again.
It’s a phenomenon that has returned to F1 for the first time in 40 years this season as a result of new car designs introduced to bring racing closer together.
Initially, the FIA’s measures will focus on scrutiny of the planks and skids under the car “both in terms of their design and observed wear” and efforts to calculate an “acceptable level of vertical oscillations”; in other words, how much does the car cost? it is allowed to bounce.
You will then hold a technical meeting with the teams to review the data and form a plan to reduce the problem in the long term.
What have the drivers said?
After slowly getting out of his car and rubbing his back at the end of last weekend’s race in Baku, Hamilton wrote on Instagram that the aggressive bouncing feels “100 times worse” than it sounds, but that he was “motivated to keep pushing” and you already feel better. .
That came after Hamilton’s teammate George Russell said in the build-up to the race in Azerbaijan that safety was becoming a concern with the cars rebounding.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz has previously questioned the long-term health impacts of rebounding, adding: “How much should a driver pay for his back and his health in an F1 race with this kind of car philosophy? “
And in an interview with BBC Sport earlier this week, Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas warned that the “porpoise” is “getting quite serious” and believes it could cause injuries to drivers.
He added: “[I’m] not sure how sustainable that is going forward and we’re starting to see driver injuries just from driving the cars, that’s not how it should be.”
Meanwhile, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo said the bounce experienced by many drivers was “not normal or comfortable”.
“Because of the position we sit in the car, we don’t have a lot of room to move so we’re not prepared for impacts,” added the Australian. “Whether that depends on a rule change, or the way the teams set up the cars, I’m not 100% sure. But I wouldn’t want anyone to get any unnecessary injuries or pain.”
However, Ricciardo’s teammate Lando Norris has previously suggested that teams that suffer the worst of rebound, such as Mercedes, have a variety of options to reduce the problem, including “raising the rear ride height by 20 hmm.”
That’s a view shared by Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, who says “the easiest thing is to lift the car” but the worst-affected teams are reluctant to do so because of the effect it would have on performance.
“Every team has an option,” Horner added. “If it was a genuine safety concern across the grid it should be looked at, but if it’s only affecting isolated teams then that’s something the team would have to deal with.”