F1 governing body to eliminate ‘porpoising’

Formula One F1 – Canadian Grand Prix – Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada – June 16, 2022 Red Bull crew is seen ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Formula One’s governing FIA on Thursday said it plans to introduce changes to reduce or eliminate the “porpoising” that has affected this season’s cars, after Lewis Hamilton suffered severe back pains during Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The ruling body said it had issued a technical directive to teams ahead of this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix laying out the measures it intends to take.

This includes short-term steps like closer scrutiny of planks and skids underneath the car for design and wear as well as the definition of a metric that will set a quantitative limit for how much cars can bounce.

The formula to determine this metric was still being analyzed, the FIA said, with teams invited to contribute to the process.

The body is also planning to convene a technical meeting with teams to define measures over the medium term that will reduce the tendency of the cars to “porpoise”.

Neither measure is expected to be in place for this weekend’s race in Montreal.

“The FIA has decided to intervene following consultation with its doctors in the interests of safety of the drivers,” the governing body said in a statement.

“In a sport where the competitors are routinely driving at speeds in excess of 300km/h, it is considered that … excessive fatigue or pain experienced by a driver could have significant consequences should it result in a loss of concentration.”

F1 introduced a radical rules overhaul this year that has seen cars generate a significant chunk of their downforce from the underside of the floor.

This has led to the “porpoising”, in which the cars bounce dramatically at high speeds, like the motion of a porpoise through water.

Teams have been affected to a varying degree, with Mercedes and Ferrari among the worst hit.

Hamilton was seen clutching his back as he clambered out of his Mercedes after the race in Baku, with team boss Toto Wolff raising the prospect of the seven-time champion having to miss the Canadian race.

Hamilton, posting on social media on Monday, said he was sore but wouldn’t miss the race in Montreal “for the world”.

Christian Horner, boss of the Red Bull team whose cars don’t seem to be affected by porpoising, suggested after the Baku race that rivals might be overplaying the problem to secure a favorable rule change.

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