1. Home
  2. sports
  3. news
  4. F1's biggest rivalry to get another chapter as FIA officials prepare to intervene on porpoising

F1's biggest rivalry to get another chapter as FIA officials prepare to intervene on porpoising

Cork Gaines   

F1's biggest rivalry to get another chapter as FIA officials prepare to intervene on porpoising
  • F1 has a "porpoising" problem where cars start bouncing at high speeds.
  • The problem has become a safety issue as drivers are suffering injured backs.

Formula One has a bouncing problem, and it will bring the Mercedes-Red Bull rivalry back to the forefront.

On Thursday, F1's governing body, the FIA, announced that it will intervene to reduce "porpoising" after several drivers complained about the physical toll it took on their bodies during the most recent race in Azerbaijan.

Porpoising — where Formula One cars start bouncing at their highest speeds — has plagued most teams to varying degrees this season. However, the FIA was forced to get involved this week after it became a safety issue.

"The FIA has decided to intervene following consultation with its doctors in the interests of safety of the drivers," The FIA wrote in a statement. "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."

Somebody is not going to like the solution

What is not clear yet is how the FIA intends to reduce porpoising. It would appear that it has two options, and the direction it chooses will have a significant impact on the championship chase and will undoubtedly upset some teams.

The options:

  1. The FIA plans to devise a formula to measure the extent of bouncing in each car. Teams would then be told to stay under a certain level, forcing them to make whatever adjustments are needed to the car's setup.
  2. The FIA could install new regulations on the cars that must be used by all teams, even if they don't have a porpoising problem.

The first solution could hurt Mercedes as the team has struggled the most with porpoising and has been the most vocal about wanting changes. Their problems reached a new level in Baku, where the street circuit is already bumpy and has the longest straight of the season, thus seeing some of the highest speeds of the year.

Lewis Hamilton, who was in agony during the race, struggled to get out of his car afterward due to back pain.

"That was the worst race ever," Hamilton said. "Probably the most painful race I have experienced and the toughest battle with the car I have ever experienced as well. I'm glad it's over."

If Mercedes is forced to reduce the porpoising on its own (e.g., raising the car height), the team risks losing speed in the car as it would be using a less-optimal setup.

If the FIA imparts new regulations on all teams, it will hurt a team like Red Bull, who would be forced to change its cars even though they are not bouncing nearly as much.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has been vocal about wanting other teams like Mercedes to have to make adjustments.

"You have a choice where you run your car, don't you?" Horner said before the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. "You should never run a car that's unsafe ... So it would seem unfair to penalize the ones that have done a decent job versus the ones that have perhaps missed the target slightly."

Horner later accused Mercedes of gamesmanship by suggesting the team was exaggerating the pain to get the FIA to make changes to all cars. Horner was asked how he would handle the issue if porpoising plagued his team.

"I'd tell them to bitch as much as they could over the radio and make as big of an issue out of it as they possibly could," Horner said after the race. "It's part of the game."

He was then asked whether the complaining is an act. He replied, "Of course it is."

Even if the drivers are being told to be squeaky wheels, McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo's comments after Baku seem to prove it is a severe problem that the FIA could no longer ignore.

"I certainly experienced bouncing, or porpoising, bad for the first time today," Ricciardo said. "I feel very, very sorry for everybody who has experienced it all year. I can't speak badly enough about it. It's bad."

F1 may finally get the problem under control now, but whatever it decides to do, at least one team will not be happy.


Popular Right Now