Summer break is over and now is the time for facts, after so much controversy that led to a lot of heated discussions in the last few months. The Belgian GP finally introduces the highly contested Technical Directive 039-22 which aims to impose new limits regarding the flexibility of the floor under the single-seaters.
According to the data collected by the FIA, (we recall that the technical commissioners of the International Federation have access to all the telemetry data of the teams), there seems to have emerged that some teams were capable of flexing the wooden planks mounted underneath their floors, allowing some cars to run on the track with a much lower ride height, managing to produce greater aerodynamic load with the floor and, therefore, more performance.
Red Bull and Ferrari in particular ended up under the magnifying glass, it is said at the suggestion of Mercedes. The team led by Toto Wolff, struggling with a solution for porpoising, the annoying bouncing on the straight, had not considered the idea of flexing the front splitter and deform the skid blocks at the bottom of the car.
One fact is certain: we have seen a significant reduction in the sparks that made certain runs of the single-seaters very spectacular when the titanium skids crawled on the asphalt. Someone had to lift the cars off the ground to avoid bouncing, while others managed to “neutralize” the wear of the board with deformable skid blocks.
What was the advantage that “creative” teams have benefited from? In the paddock there are rumors of gains worth a couple of tenths and if it is true we will find out precisely at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps next weekend where the technical directive repeatedly rejected and rewritten will become active, defining the new FIA checks to avoid such “tricks”.
The measure should have taken place in the French GP at Paul Ricard, but the FIA eventually gave teams more time in order to be able to adapt the flexibility of the floor to the most stringent controls. The teams developed planks divided into three parts: it was allowed to subdivide it to replace only the most damaged portion, favoring a clear cost saving and limiting the timely replacement of the entire board, but these opportunities led the technicians to study modular flexions of the skid blocks.
And so in order to avoid damaging the floor when the heights of the car vary (in practice, a deflection of no more than 1mm is the limit for every 1.5 tonne of load applied, equivalent to a minimum stiffness of 15 kN/mm.) varied solutions have been studied.
Now the 2mm bending tolerance of the skid block will be strictly applied and the stiffness around the floor hole will have to be uniform for a radial distance of another 15mm, for a 75% surface area, so as to avoid any parts of the board with variable stiffness material.
The Belgian GP, therefore, will reveal the mystery of the summer: we will understand if Red Bull and Ferrari, but not only, will suddenly lose a couple of tenths in terms of lap time competitiveness compared to the Mercedes which in Hungary had already come close to the performance of the two top teams. If we see a reversal of the usual values, there will be confirmation that indeed there were those who pushed the rules to the limit, with technical interpretations that were in line with the rules at that time, although very borderline with respect to the spirit of the regulation.
If, on the other hand, there will be no changes in terms of in performance, then it will be clear that it was an attempt by Mercedes to re-enter the fight in the middle of the championship, changing the rules of the game, prompting the FIA to write the TD039 which officially is motivated by reasons of safety that objectively do not seem to be the main factor for this decision, as also reported by Motorsport Italy.
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The bouncing of the cars has been almost totally removed with the stiffening of the floors, but it will be curious to analyze if we will see any bouncing in the long straights of the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
The International Federation, in fact, introduces the AOM algorithm, the Aerodynamic Oscillation Metric which will impose a maximum frame oscillation value: an accelerometer placed near the center of gravity of the car will allow them to monitor porposing. Should a car exceed the limits set, the team will be asked to return the car to the pits to raise the floor and neutralize the phenomenon.
The teams have had the opportunity to become familiar with the algorithm so there should be no surprises, but what will happen if between qualifying and the race, just to give an example, we will see a change in weather conditions (perhaps with strong gusts of wind ) and suddenly there was sudden bouncing? Will the cars in the pit lane be forced to again change the ride height?
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