Mercedes bouncing still a debate ahead of Canadian GP

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The debate over bouncing or porpoising continues as we head into the Canadian GP weekend with Lewis Hamilton saying he will race despite his struggles to extricate himself from his car in Baku last weekend due to back pain.

Pierre Gasly and now Valtteri Bottas have joined George Russell and others in complaining about the bouncing. Mercedes seem to be struggling the most of any team and Ferrari, who initially were struggling early in the season, seemed to have gotten on top of some of their bounce 8 races in to 2022. For Mercedes, this hasn’t been the case and perhaps due to the nature of their car’s design. Bottas said:

“[I’m] not sure how sustainable that is in the future and we start to actually see injuries of drivers just by driving the cars – that’s not how it should be. “We, as drivers, spoke with FIA at the last race and made the point pretty clear that we would like to seek for any options in the future how we can improve it.”

Regardless, it will be interesting to see if the FIA do anything as there will be teams who suffer far less with bouncing who will push hard against any sort of regulation that mandates a certain ride height. Some have argued that there may not be enough headroom in the Mercedes car’s suspension to remedy the bouncing but I’ve not seen Mercedes verify that notion. They very well may have, I’ve just not seen that from Merc.

Porpoising or bouncing is not a new concept in ground effect cars and all the teams are loaded with aero geniuses so they knew this going in to the design of their 2022 cars. This isn’t just my opinion, the head of F1’s technical director Ross Brawn said:

“I’m a little surprised some of them have been caught out by it. I thought they would have anticipated it from their wind tunnel work, but you can see on the track that some people have already come to terms with it, so there are solutions out there. I think where they will face a challenge is that I suspect the solutions may be cutting back on performance a little bit, and the strongest performance may put them on the edge [of porpoising] – but that is a decision for the teams to make on how they set the car up.” 

I suspect it is this stance and the stance of the FIA that will determine if any regulation mandate on ride height is delivered but if I had to guess, I would say they would choose not to mandate a ride height.

On one hand you have pundits saying that Merc may not be able to raise their car enough to avoid bouncing due to limits in the suspension so mandating a ride height would seem pointless if that is the case, no? The other side of this coin is that if they can raise it enough and the fIA mandate a ride height, it may help them reduce Merc’s bouncing while not losing much performance by hobbling everyone else with a loss of performance that they would then spend mightily on to reclaim lost performance and that isn’t fair to Ferrari or Red Bull who have gotten on top of much of their bouncing without losing performance.

In the end, Mercedes is in a tough place while some pundits say if they are worried about their drivers then just raise their cars. Other say they may not be able to raise them enough to cure the bouncing and then you have Toto himself suggesting the FIA should look at the issue. I’ll be curious to see what Mercedes recommends as it will reveal what they are struggling with most with regards to ride height.

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Peter

this bouncing issue is simple: If teams had been allowed to test all winter, there would not be any bouncing.
This lack of simple “drive the damn thing” testing in favor of computer simulations and wind tunnel testing is at the root cause of this issue.
When I was Prog. Manager for the Voyager World flight in ’85-’87, we conducted 67 flight tests to refine the plane. Thatw as after computer work, etc. It is time F1 got back to basics. And believe me, testing will help the poorer teams far more than the rich ones.