Alongside Ferrari’s big power unit reliability problems, one other major talking point from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend at the Baku City Circuit was the increasing annoyance about the physical impact and risks of the ongoing bouncing. This issue was even discussed in the Formula 1 drivers’ briefing, with several drivers asking for the matter to be evaluated in order for a solution to be found.
Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) director George Russell is understood to have directly asked the FIA to look into the matter, as he is now feels there is a growing concern regarding the safety consequences which come from being excessively shaken around at high speeds, as was the case in Baku:
“Well I think it’s just a matter of time before we see a major incident,” eplained the Mercedes driver – “A lot of us kind of can barely keep the car in a straight line over these bumps.”
George Russell’s concerns are shared by several other F1 drivers, but at the same time, not all teams agree with the idea of changing the rules or doing anything drastic needs in the short term, particularly because this is not even an issue all teams have been facing in the last few races.
It has emerged that in 2021, when talks were held regarding the ongoing progress of the new generation of Formula 1 challengers, the risk of porpoising was pointed out and there were some suggestions about possible solutions to reduce the bouncing. It seems that as it became clear how low teams were going to have to run the new cars, the the idea of bringing something to remove the risk of porpoising.
However, the idea, which would have involved a series of technical measures to basically impose a minimum ride height and therefore force teams to lift cars clear from the ground and avoid porpoising, was not accepeted by teams and was binned immediately.
But while teams did not want such a limitation at that time, the increasing concerns of drivers may lead to more discussions regarding how bouncing can be reduced, with involvement also from the FIA.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff felt that the current situation was not straightforward – and pointed out that the first step would be to evaluate and identify the causes why some cars were suffering worse than others: “I think we’ve seen cars that don’t have the issue and then others who have it have it worse, clearly. I can talk for our two drivers: they are having issues and it goes to a point that even a physio can’t fix it sometimes. So, we need to see how that develops. And understand also why it’s much tougher in some cars than in others.”
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While there are legitimate concerns regarding the impact of bouncing, other also pointed out that Mercedes are playing “the usual political game” by asking for rule changes to end the phenomenon of so-called porpoising in Formula 1’s new ground effect era, mostly because their car would benefit the most from any rule changes, given the performance seens in this first part of the championship: “”He sees the camera, and then starts walking away with his hand on his back,” said well-known Dutch commentator Olav Mol on Ziggo Sport about Lewis Hamilton – “He wanted everything to see that because they want the FIA to change something, because they say it is too dangerous. That’s what they are trying to achieve.”
Scuderia Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto did not agree with Mercedes and does not feel that the current cars are in fact the most difficult to drive, while admitting that more time was needed to understand how things stand and if any action is necessary:
“If we judge the Formula 1, I don’t think they are the least comfortable cars to drive, in terms of formula motorsport. I think that it’s a challenge for the drivers, no doubt. But still, I think those cars are quite comfortable to drive. It’s a challenge, a technical challenge, I think we look at ourselves, we made already some progress, and I think in the future, we can do more progress. So, certainly too early to judge.” – Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto concluded.
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