George Russell, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2022

Porpoising could become safety concern if solution not found – Russell

2022 F1 season

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Grand Prix Drivers Association director George Russell says the problem of ‘porpoising’ in the new 2022 F1 cars has the potential to become a safety concern.

With major technical regulations changes for this season seeing Formula 1 reintroduce ground effect aerodynamics for 2022, many teams experienced their cars bouncing at high speeds during the first test due to the rapid change in air pressure under cars caused by their heavily redesigned floors.

The phenomenon was illustrated vividly in a video Formula 1 released on social media of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari bouncing along a the main straight in Barcelona.

Russell, who is the director of the GPDA – the drivers representative union – says that porpoising could present a safety concern if teams are unable to find a way to reduce the severe bouncing before the start of the season.

“I think it has the potential to be a real safety concern if it gets out of control,” said the Mercedes driver.

“Obviously if you’re flat-out down the straight and it starts to happen, you don’t back off in a race scenario. We saw with Charles’s video just how bad it was for them, so I think we all need to find a solution.”

AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly described the sensation as “not that pleasant, driving wise” and anticipates that Safety Car periods might make the issue worse during races.

“It was a bit shocking the first time it happened on track with the car because we didn’t really expect it, but it’s just finding ways to get around it,” Gasly said.

“I think we know that in certain circumstances in the race, you know, with Safety Cars, tyre pressure dropping, etc, we may face this and actually it may become an issue in the race. So we’ll have to think about all these different situations where things could get a lot worse.”

The reintroduction of active suspension systems into Formula 1 has been suggested as a potential solution to the porpoising problem. Russell is confident that teams will come up with solutions using the existing suspension systems used this season.

“I guess if active suspension was there that could be solved with a click of your fingers,” Russell said. “And the cars would naturally be a hell of a lot faster if we had that and I’m sure all the teams are capable of that. So that could be one for the future. But let’s see in Bahrain. I’m sure all the teams will come up with some smart ideas around this issue.”

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Will Wood
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33 comments on “Porpoising could become safety concern if solution not found – Russell”

  1. I don’t remember Dallara having that problem in IndyCar when they introduced the ground effect car in 2012.

    1. Because while Indycar has a shaped floor with tunnels that produced some ground effect, It’s nowhere near as advanced or as powerful as what F1 has introduced.

      Compare the floor of the Indycar DW12.
      To the floor on the F1 render knowing that each team’s interpretation is likely to be more advanced than this in a few areas.

      Ground effects are part of the philosophy of the DW12 but the car still produces a lot of aero from the top surfaces/wings, It’s not a full ground effect car with the balance been closer to 50/50 (Same with F3/F2). The 2022 F1 regulations on the other hand put a much greater emphasis on the floor so it’s more balanced towards been a full ground effect car along the lines of what was seen in the late 70s/early 80s (Minus the sliding skirts).

      Additionally since Indycar uses a spec chassis they are able to design it so that the floor works exactly as the series & Dallara want & any changes they make are the same for everyone. For example when they introduced the cut-outs in the floor ahead of the side-pods to try & stop cars lifting quite as easily when they got sideways.

      Porpoising has always been an issue with a fully ground effect cars, Was in the 80s with F1, Indycar & Group C & it will be with F1 going forward. It’s something that is very difficult, If not impossible to fully eliminate as even if you fix it during normal running it can pop up in different scenario unexpectedly. Think something like if there are a series of bumps that cause the car to bounce at a certain frequency or if the airflow under the car changes for some reason if you pull out from behind another car or are going over a rise or something.

      Think of it like when cars sometimes flipped at Le Mans. It didn’t happen all the time but if the circumstances were right & the front lifted enough the car would go over.

      1. The under-body tunnels in F1 are heavily constrained by the regulations– how you get air into the tunnels isn’t as much.

        One solution might be as simple as a spring-loaded flap on each tunnel that bleeds off negative pressure when it reaches a certain level.

        And while active suspension might be one answer, something as simple as a magneride type hydraulic damper that increases the stiffness of the suspension as the speed of the car increases, wouldn’t be a terrible solution either.

        1. I think that if you stiffened the suspension because of porpoising the car might start bouncing on the tires…..

    2. As far as I understand this phenomenon it depends how low you’re running the car and how much downforce is generated. I suppose that indy, being “spec” series, just runs their cars outside the window of this occuring.

  2. It would need a change of the regs, a form of self-levelling suspension would solve the problem.

    1. The regulations are fine, as Ferrari’s Binotto said earlier in the test: “solving it can be quite straightforward, [but] optimising the performance (…) could be a less easy exercise.”

      They’re all pushing the limits to see how the cars behave. They’ll dial it down when the racing starts to avoid having any serious issues when there are points and races to be won.

  3. Is this because teams are deliberately trying to stall the underbody flow on the straights by using soft springs and/or ‘over-centre’ suspension geometry? In the manner Mercedes used to great effect to reduce drag at the end of last season? Since the underbody now generates a much greater proportion of the downforce, the feedback to suspension compression is subject to greater emphasis.

    The suspension natural frequency could be moved outside the track forcing frequency. That would mean stiffer springs and dampers and a more uncomfortable ride for the drivers. This is what happened back in the last era of dominant underbody aero IIRC.

    1. No, it’s because as the car goes faster, the ground effect gets stronger. This pulls the car downward, loading the suspension unequally. Eventually, the car’s angle of attack leads to the ground effect losing effectiveness, at which point the suspension unloads, the car levels back out, and the cycle starts over.

      While I make it sound very slow, in reality, it can happen multiple times a second.

      1. Yes that’s the effect I was trying [and perhaps failing] to describe, loss of downforce, restoration of downforce cycle. In search of drag reduction through choking the underfloor flow and gaining top speed on the straight. Plus of course softer suspension to ride the kerbs better.

    2. @frasier in this scenario, I very much doubt you’d want to be actively trying to induce the sort of behaviour that we are seeing here – whilst it has been more obvious on the straights given the higher speeds involved, you can imagine that the same effect in a high speed corner would be rather detrimental to performance.

      1. @anon It was reported last year that Mercedes gained speed on the straights by having a rear suspension linkage that gave them a reducing spring rate as ride height dropped under downforce with increasing speed. In doing this, again received wisdom, the diffuser stalled and reduced the drag from the car’s wake gaining them top speed. All entirely legal and probably designers will have been looking at this years cars to try and replicate that effect.

        Speculating that the calibration needs to be very precise and be retuned for every circuit’s different surface ripples.

  4. Maybe we don’t need new regs. Perhaps the teams should consider safety when designing their cars, since this flaw can be avoided but there will be time lost. If they are willing to create snappy unpredictable cars in order to go faster that is their right and their risk.

    1. Whenever there’s a trade-off between safety and performance, top-level competitors in any sport will choose the more dangerous, faster option. If they choose the safe option they become a mid-level competitor, because someone else will choose the more dangerous option and overtake them.

      For that reason, safety standards have to be the same across all competitors, which means they need to be set by the governing body.

  5. Typical facetious complain…
    Solution is already known, just increase the height level.

  6. Some teams got ir right, some teams did not. Dont penalize the teams that got it right.
    This is evident in wind tunnel data if those tests are run. Obviously some teams chose not to run those tests. Oops.

    Those who missed the target will have to run decreased down force until the get it right.

    1. Nonsense, all team used wind tunnels to check this well known effect.
      The problem is the tarmac is way less smooth compared with the tunnel. So the real effect only showed during real world testing.
      BTW, the reason they do real world testing is to find these kind of behaviour.

      1. Actually you are right about the Nissan GTP car. But it seems Newey is trying to copy what they did there with the beam wing. Not to give anything away, but the nissan GTP car used the low pressure air of the rear wing to create a low pressure under the floor. The chief designer I actually worked with at a company before he took off to Nissan Racing full time.

  7. The solution dear Russel is too have stiffer suspension in the rear or to raise the ride height.
    Ferrari in 1st day didn’t had problem, in 2nd day they tried softer rear and they had and in 3nd day they rolled back to stiffer suspension with no problem again.
    There are a ton of ways to reduce this phenomenon and i expect FIA to not change anything like the harder tyre sidewalls were only MB had problem but with the change all the rest teams got problems after.

    1. @bluechris Problem with stiffening the suspension is that the ride then becomes ridiculous & the car can start to hop over bumps which can cause other problems with wildly unpredictable & inconsistent downforce levels which at high speed can just throw cars off the track unexpectedly.

      These are all problems that occurred when ground effects were used before & were the reasons drivers of the time hated driving those cars & why nobody other than the engineers were upset when ground effects were banned. Everyone has just became so obsessed only with overtaking the past 10 years or so that they have all just completely forgotten or just ignored all of the negative reasons that ground effects were banned to begin with & what the overwhelming opinion was at the time & just how many drivers the negative elements of ground effects contributed to hurting via cars bounding off the road or taking off.

      People will point to indycar or other categories as those who use ground effects safely yet ignore the spec nature of those categories and the fact none of them use the ground effects principle in the same way it was used in the 80’s or how F1 are using it now. There is a reason why no category has introduced ground effects like this since most banned it in the 80s when the negative aspects became apparent along with all the wrecked cars & wounded drivers.

      I’ve no doubt drivers will hate driving ground effect cars now just as they did in the 80s because it’s clear that they are suffering all of the same problems the 70/80s cars did. Not just this porpoising but also how horribly sluggish & understeering they are at low speed & how they just hop/bounce because of how horribly still they have to be run & that will no doubt lead to many more big accidents as the floor loses downforce as it hops around & throws cars off in the middle of fast corners. Probably a good thing eau rouge will have more runoff as i think we will see many more cars flying over it.

      1. The safety aspect i dont buy anymore quit.The formula atlantic and old formula supervee used full ground effects, as did the IMSA GTP series, specifically the Nissan GTP car. These race cars had real alive ground effects. Go look at an old Anson SA6 supervee, those tunnels are over 8” deep. I ran very little wing when we campaigned that car..

        1. Johns, the Nissan GTP Z-XT might have had a sculpted underfloor with large tunnels but, as I understand it, they were also relying on generating a fairly substantial proportion of their downforce from the wings and upper bodywork.

          With regards to Formula Atlantic, whilst that series did allow for a sculpted underfloor, wasn’t the intention of that rule set also to set the performance of the cars somewhere between that of contemporary Formula 2 and Formula 3 cars?

      2. We pay the drivers wages so I hope they can keep quiet. The 80’s drivers whined all the time about not liking these cars. I think this will improve the product though for us. And that really is all that matters.

  8. Learn to handle a broken car ya wimp!
    My old Montego was not only illegal but also unpleasant to drive yet I made a few Leeds to Heathrow runs in it.

    1. Sure, driving at 200 mph with your head hitting your helmet multiple times a minute.

  9. I have no doubt the teams will fix this, as long as it does not hurt their quali and race performance.

  10. I think Active Suspensions are very relevant both for racing and in the real world. Most high end luxury, off road and sports cars have Active Suspensions. F1 should give it a serious thought to introduce Active Suspensions. They would solve porpoising, handling, degradation issues and very well could improve the overtaking/show.

    1. Yes, active suspensions are one solution to the current issue.
      Saw a report from David Coulthard, his comments on the active suspended Williams was all about how smooth and easy to drive it was.
      Problem is that there is no time to implement something this season (at least not likely) and there will be the expected whining about budget caps and spending limits.
      Further bad news is that they will up the weight of the cars … yet again.
      They may be able to reduce (not solve) the problem with some form of a simplistic variable and externally controlled damper. Not in the current rules, so the fighting starts.
      From the video of the Ferrari bobbing down the track, it looked like it was primarily affecting the rear of the car. Seems strange as all the chatter is about the issues at the front of the car. Yes, I appreciate that this is where the air flow issues start, but if the downforce bias is towards variations at the rear, changes at the front will only address part of the issue.

  11. Mercedes wants their suspension back, to be expected. Apart from active suspension, teams can either run higher or come up with a device that bleeds off or unseals the floor before getting to that state. The regulatory problem is that solving it with aero can be deemed a moveable aero device besides that it won’t erradicate the problem and it won’t be an optimal solution.

  12. Mark in Florida
    27th February 2022, 4:29

    The IMSA GTP race cars used massive venturi tunnels to produce thousands of pounds of downforce. I don’t remember any porpoising problems on their cars. That has to be extremely unsettling to the drivers to feel the car doing that. The airflow has to be sealing and unsealing itself as the car goes down the track at high speed. They possibly need more wing to balance the car out. I think as has been said whoever gets on top of it first will have the advantage… at least for a while.

    1. You do not solve it with the wing alone.
      It’s a bump in the road that triggers the movement. The reason they did not knew the extent of the problem was wind tunnels do not have those bumps.
      Increasing the ride height or stiffening the dampers are all parts of the solution.

  13. For anyone else that couldn’t get the Twitter link to work:

  14. Watching that video of Leclerc’s Ferrari bouncing was pretty interesting to watch with disco beats music.

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