FIA issues directive regarding F1’s bouncing issue

No sooner than I hit publish on an article in which I said I didn’t think the FIA would issue a mandate, the news came out today that the FIA is taking steps, on safety grounds, to limit the bouncing or “porpoising” effect some teams are experiencing. 

To the credit of Mercedes, who seem to suffer the most, a campaign over driver safety was started with several drivers complaining about the safety and health of drivers. This came on the back of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as George Russell suggested it was dangerous and Lewis Hamilton hobbled out of his car with reported back pain. 

The two Mercedes drivers weren’t alone in their objection to the current issue with Pierre Gasly and Valtteri Bottas weighing in on the issue and the GPDA meeting with the FIA in Baku to voice their concerns. 

The FIA said:

A Technical Directive has been issued to give guidance to the teams about the measures the FIA intends to take to tackle the problem. These include:

1. Closer scrutiny of the planks and skids, both in terms of their design and the observed wear
2. 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 1 teams have been invited to contribute to this process.

In addition to these short-term measures, the FIA will convene a technical meeting with the Teams in order to define measures that will reduce the propensity of cars to exhibit such phenomena in the medium term.

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.

I find that very interesting and it could be even more interesting to hear some of the teams comments about this if they feel it reduces their performance. If there is no vocal opposition to this directive, it would suggest that the other teams have done the math and feel that the directive doesn’t not impede their performance. That isn’t normally the case in F1 so let’s see how this plays out over the weekend. 

Also, if a team feels that Mercedes is the team who is struggling the most, they will want to remain as-is in order to remove them from the battle at the sharp end of the grid. It’s a brutal world in F1 and anything you can do to unseat the 8-time constructor’s champ, you will. Ferrari may be more amenable to the directive than Red Bull at this point as the latter has less bouncing and leads both championships.

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Achim

As far as I understand it, they mandate a limitation of the bouncing, but the actual rules of how the cars are designed stay the same.

When those rules are introduced quickly, teams like Mercedes, can only do “quick fixes”, which probably will cost them performance. Similar Ferrari: the drivers do not complain that much, but at least on TV it sometimes looks to be a pretty uncomfortable ride.

Red Bull on the other hand might not have to make any notable fixes in comparison and would stay where there are right now: fastest car on Sunday.

Tim C.

If I understand correctly, there are ways to stop the bouncing (e.g. raise the ride height). The regulations for these cars are the same for every team. Some will get it right. Some will get it wrong. It’s always been this way in motorsports. So, I don’t see any reason the FIA should enforce this type of mandate. Isn’t F1 supposed to be at the top of the motorsports food chain? The teams should put their collective brain power to work and come up with a viable solution to this issue. If they can’t come up with another solution, raise… Read more »

graysaidwhat?

With cars of incalculable value bouncing on the straights like grandpa’s ancient Roadmaster, the PR hit is becoming increasingly amusing. As to injuries, let’s see. Even soft tissue injuries can now be meticulously catalogued with the great scanning equipment they have these days. I like that they are searching for a way to let the data drive the decision.

Glen Mhor

The team politics of it all come into play, but foremost driver safety (including the long term effects) should be top of the list.