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.
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.