George Russell, Mercedes, Imola, 2022

Extreme porpoising isn’t sustainable warns Russell after suffering chest pains in race

2022 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by and

George Russell says the physical effects of porpoising from the new ground effect 2022 Formula 1 cars is not sustainable for drivers.

His Mercedes team have struggled with the severe bouncing phenomenon at high speeds caused by the high downforce levels generated at maximum velocity by the new floors for 2022. The W13 has been prone to porpoising to such a degree that team principal Toto Wolff revealed on Friday Russell’s car had broken a stay on its floor designed to held increase its rigidity.

The impact of the constant bouncing at high speeds is beginning to take a toll on his health, Russell says, with the phenomenon being at its most severe during today’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.

“I think when the car’s in the right window and the tyres are in the right window, the car, except for the bouncing, feels really good to drive,” said Russell after finishing fourth in Imola.

“But the bouncing really takes your breath away. It’s the most extreme I’ve ever felt it. I really hope we find a solution and I hope every team who’s struggling with the bouncing finds a solution because it is not sustainable for the drivers to continue with this level.

“This is the first weekend I’ve truly been struggling with my back. Almost like chest pains from the severity of the bouncing, but it’s just what we have to do to go get the fastest lap times out of the car.”

After his fourth consecutive top-five finish at the start of the 2022 season, with Mercedes clearly lacking performance in comparison to their rivals Red Bull and Ferrari, Russell says the team must get more out of their package if they want to continue to finish in the higher places.

“I think in terms of results, we’re definitely getting the most out of it and things have definitely fallen our way in these first four races,” said Russell.

“It gives me and I’m sure it gives the team confidence that when the car improves, we’ll be there to get even more points on the board. So, as I said before this weekend, we can’t sustain this level of these results if we don’t improve the pace of the car.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2022 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

Browse all 2022 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix articles

Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

79 comments on “Extreme porpoising isn’t sustainable warns Russell after suffering chest pains in race”

  1. Just raise the car….

    1. And finish behind Williams…

      1. Sir Lewis did anyway! Might as well be comfy.

        1. lol, george finishing behind williams in a mercedes would be hilarious.

        2. Haha, my mistake. Indeed he did…

  2. I can imagine with the bouncing that Merc does it would hurt like hell, especially when there’s back to back races or even triple headers.

    You’d think by now Merc would have fixed these issues, but then again, they did waste an entire week of testing with fake sidepods so they started well on the back foot.

    1. I luv chicken
      25th April 2022, 11:07

      “Back to back”. I saw what you did there.

  3. Davethechicken
    24th April 2022, 20:40

    Brain injuries in the making? Are the forceful abrupt head movements harmful? I think it is highly unlikely it has been properly researched. Just look at other sports and the links in football, rugby, American football and boxing, to name a few, with associated degenerative neurological conditions in later life.

    1. I had exactly the same thought. These kind of degenerative injuries might not show up for years.

    2. I don’t know what forces drivers are subject to due to bouncing but I doubt it’s as bad as NFL or other high impact sports. Drivers are not hitting their heads on anything, as their torso absorbs most of the force. They are probably more likely to develop back problems, as Russell said.

    3. That’s a good point. I agree, the FIA needs to investigate this. It obviously isn’t healthy for the drivers to continue driving with the cars behaving as they are. One solution would be to raise the minimum ride height of the car, but of course that would reduce the ground effects, so increasing the lap times. And of course there are teams which have managed to minimise porpoising, so why should they have to drive slower because some teams didn’t design their car correctly.

    4. I wondered the same thing when this first started happening but I assumed the highly talented designers etc would have got this problem at least somewhat under control by now. It just seems to be getting worse if anything.

      1. Budget cap and limited testing/windtunnel/CFD. They will have to redirect resources to fixing the issue without majorly impeding development work in other areas. Not easy.

    5. Just gotta look at something like “sled head” to know that this will have severe consequences, if it continues

    6. Agreed – very surprised the FIA haven’t stepped in yet, for 2 reasons:

      *Brain injuries

    7. Haha, stop. Their heads are not getting hit!
      Our brains undergo more vibration when jumping, running, riding a bike or even just walking on a hard surface which we do our entire lives. Our brains are made for that.
      Trembling out of cold is much more severe, but you dont get trauma from it.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        25th April 2022, 18:29

        @amian I went to universal in Orlando and I got on a few rides. After one ride, I was walking sideways and my children thought I was faking it but I was so dizzy that straight looked like shapes of 8. For a few months after that, every time I got up from a chair, I got vertigo and things were shaking. It took 6 months for that to go away. This happened 5 years ago.

        I train quite a bit (at least twice, mostly 3-4 times) and I’ve never had an issue on a rollercoaster before. In fact, during a Hurricane, I had a whole park to myself and rode the rides (that do crazy twists) alone many, many times about 20 years ago. I had no headaches. So it’s not a new thing.

        My point is that F1 is way faster and more jarring than a rollercoaster ride and if I can suffer a massive concussion that lasts 6 months, I can only imagine what these cars would do to the drivers when each race lasts nearly 2 hours and there are 3 practices, and qualifying.

        I’m actually surprised that they are able to drive the car under those conditions as your head bouncing can affect your vision and your timing and split second decision making.

        Have you how much brain damage a boxer suffers? These blows may not be individually as dangerous but if you compound them they definitely have a similar effect.

  4. Are we at the point where they need to admit that the new regs created a situation where porpoising is faster than not? Just throwing it out there, hard to believe after this many races any team couldn’t get rid of it if they wanted to, I just suspect it results in a slower car.

  5. It was the same with ground effect cars in the 70s/80s which is why the drivers of that era hated driving those cars. Not just in F1 either as Indycar & Group C drivers were just as vocal about it.

    The show over sport era is going to cause drivers lasting injuries. Not just because of this dumb bouncing but also because these modern long straight car park circuits with over powered drs is going to get someone airborn in a tragic way.

  6. I really don’t think he’s just having a moan for the sake of it. It looks genuinely unpleasant at the very best, at worst the base of his spine is taking a pounding. That car wouldn’t pass a basic road car MOT jumping around like that. Yes, they could raise the ride height, but they’re not. Until they sort it, him and Lewis are going to have some sore bones.

  7. RocketTankski
    24th April 2022, 20:57

    These adrenaline junkies with their fad sports. Extreme porpoising.
    At least they wear helmets I suppose.

    1. And safety belts…

  8. That bouncing looks awful and painful for the Mercedes drivers just by watching onboards. Also it can be a safety risk. Mercedes bouncing is the most violent of all the cars.

    1. Did you notice the bounching on Leclerc? that was also very extreme i expect a failure from 1 of those cars in the future.

  9. So the car is literally close to ‘undriveable’ as Wolff put it.
    This actually sounds like a serious issue now. How much physical damage are Mercedes going to put their drivers through this year?

    1. If Merc is undriveable, how come their number one driver still has the third or fourth quickest car every weekend?
      Don’t forget almost everything someone from Merc says has some political roadmap behind it. (Probably counts for most F1 teams)

      1. This is coming from one of the younger drivers on the the grid. If at 24, he is suffering, what must it be like for someone Hamilton’s age – 37. The sport is already dangerous, without the driver putting their health on the line in this way.

    2. And mental damage…

  10. I can’t help it. .. whenever there is an on board shot (from the top of the intake) and I see a helmet bounce in and out of view I can’t stop laughing. It’s comically bad. It’s F1. They should have a solution by now right. ..

    1. Could you imagine what COTA would be like in that car right now?

      1. @bernasaurus

        I imagine it will feel like a complete flat surface to Ferrari and Mercedes …

        .. when their bounce engineers succeed in aligning it with the bumps

    2. Why does the camera fitted on the car not bounce with the rest of the car? The helmet should not move in and out of view then.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        24th April 2022, 23:18

        The car won’t bounce to quite the extent the drivers end up doing inside. The camera will likely also have a fair amount of dampening to stop as much vibration.

      2. Uhm, the camera is stationary in relation to the car, the driver/helmet is not …

  11. The Ferrari looks pretty bouncy too in the fastest bits. But I don’t see the Red Bulls doing it – has Newey reduced it to goldfishing? And have they asked folks like Mario Andretti how they solved it first time round? (unless he’s giving nothing away to potential rivals of his son’s team…)

    1. Mario back then they had a kind of active suppension (not like the Williams one) and Red Bull also moves only a very small amount.

    2. Newey has also worked on the ground effect cars of that era, so he knows how to fix it.

  12. Porpoising is a poetic term for what is happening to the car, but I think that a more correct term would be spanking. These cars are being rapidly spanked, and it will only be harmful to the driver in the long run. I hate to use the term dribbling, like a basketball, because I imagine the dribble of saliva soaking the inside of the helmet at the end of the straight…

    1. Spanking… that’s not a Freudian slip, right?

  13. Since he finished towards the front are we allowed to listen to his opinions now or do Ross & Liberty still think he should be ignored?

    1. The statement he made was actually contradictory: first he said they don’t really listen to the opinions of drivers towards the back, then later on the same article they said they listen to them too!

  14. Back … way back when NASCAR was racing on the Super-Speedways in the 70s, (at over 200 mph) a problem surfaced with drivers suffering from vibration induced physical symptoms, mostly internal and visual / balance related, but persistent and long lasting. NASA had apparently uncovered the same phenomena with high G loads and vibrations. All tied to exposure duration. Recovery was not fast, taking weeks in some cases.
    If you notice, NASCAR has cut speeds and the superspeedways are a lot smoother than they used to be.
    Surprising that F1 porpoising hasn’t triggered the same thing till now. If there were more testing, that might be the case, but a couple of triple headers should shake things up.
    The porpoising is not likely to be solved without some form of active intervention, active aero or suspension control. Increasing ride height is not a solution as it means even stiffer suspension and sacrificing lap time. When was the last time you heard of a team giving up on lap time so the driver would feel more comfortable.? Not going to happen.
    Not likely that Mercedes has a solution either. In the post race interview, T. Wolfe alluded to an upgrade for Miami to solve it, and then he touched his head. Seinfeld fans will know what this means. (you tube Reading People by Seinfeld)

    1. CART cars and indy cars have solved this. There is no reason to penalize those who have got it right, Red bull.

    2. Yea, that’s not why Super Speedway cars were slowed down. Cars were slowed down with restrictor plates while Nascar was in a transition period from 7000cc engines to small blocks until 1974.

      Restrictor plate racing as we know it wasn’t implemented until 1988 after Bobby Alison nearly blew into the stands in ’87. The speeds up to this point were over 215mph. They don’t even use plates anymore, it’s a tapered spacer.

      As for the tracks being smoother, Talladega didn’t see a repave for over 25 years, and Daytona received one in 2010. The Talladega one was scheduled a few years in advance, and the Daytona repave was done since the track surface was literally falling apart.

      Why was Dega repaved in ’79? Heck it could be because of the vibration issue. But I can assure you it’s not why the cars were slowed down in Eightys.

    3. Indeed, @rekibsn. NASA called it the Pogo Effect.

    4. Johns Exactly.

      @rekibsn “The porpoising is not likely to be solved without some form of active intervention, active aero or suspension control.” Or they could build the car like RBR has and porpoising will be barely an issue. Unless you think they have some form of active intervention?

  15. There is always solution’s to the problem with a bit of extra weight

  16. Part of the problem for Mercedes is some teams seem to have solved the problem. If it was a universal problem that all teams suffered like Merc then the FIA might have grounds to intervene on safety grounds, but as it is, any intervention would be performance based, not safety. Mercedes probably can put a set up on that car that stops the bouncing, alas it may be very slow, but that’s not the FIA’s problem.

    1. Glad you put the “probably” in there.

      I’m not convinced they can. People are suggesting that they just raise the height of the car. Problem is, if they do that so there’s no ground effect, there would be insufficient downforce for a moment F1 car to even make a corner so we’d just see the car flying off the track.

      Go slower – again, you can’t in a modern F1 car – if they’re not going fast enough, the brakes don’t get hot enough and that coupled with lack of downforce would again see them flying off the track.

      They actually need to solve the problem and quickly. I’m simply stunned that they haven’t made any decent inroads on it yet as we all should be given the number or talented engineers they have.

      I can’t see Ferrari sustaining their challenge either if they continue to bounce like they are. This weekend they had no chance to dial it out (nor did anyone else) because of the stupid sprint event giving them just the 1 session to work on set up, and it showed in the way the weekend panned out.

      Other teams are bouncing too, not as noticeably as Ferrari and Mercedes, but the bounce is there. My concern is that the bouncing has to be stressing the chassis’s integrity, it’s not gentle, it’s literally smashing the car down onto the ground, and I can see someone suffering a catastrophic failure at 300kph if these cars continue to bounce away.

      1. Red Bull have more than 50 of Mercs staff. No wonder Merc are struggling. A lot of data would have changed hands. No wonder redbull are not.

      2. @dbradock “I’m simply stunned that they haven’t made any decent inroads on it yet as we all should be given the number or talented engineers they have.” While I agree that it is surprising how badly Mercedes has missed the mark with these new cars, I can’t say I am stunned that they haven’t made any decent inroads on it, because of the budget caps and because of the nature of the start of the schedule with them only just now back in Europe but now about to go to Florida. And because it would seem this car does not have in it some adjustments that will get them anywhere further up the road. You’d think they’d have tried everything within the car by now.

        I have the impression that they need quite a rethink with their car, and that means front to back changes since we all know everything has to work in sync front to back, but the reality with the budget caps is that they no longer can just make 4 or 5 iterations of a wing for example, and then simply test in practice and select the best one. They have to take their best guess as what front wing to use that will optimize the (new) floor and the (new) rear diffuser etc etc. so given that they seem to need to go a different direction, it can’t be easy to ‘guess’ at what shape of new components will all work together. All the while they are needing to shed weight as the others do too.

        I think there may come a time, perhaps by mid-season, and assuming they haven’t found some ‘magic’ that they may just have to start focussing on next year’s car, so drastic might the changes on this current one need to be.

  17. How about a 3 day in-season testing for all teams to mainly focus on finding a solution for the porpoising. This is a safety risk. FIA should seriously do something about it.

    1. @amg44 Good idea, it sounds as if it could rise to the status of a safety issue, but not for all cars – mainly Merc specific.
      In the past an idea like this would have required 100% of the teams to agree – I couldn’t see CH saying yes though, no benefit for him. Now I think they don’t need _all_ the teams to agree if FOM suggest something, so it might be possible.

    2. Most teams already have found a solution to the problem.

      It’s really only Merc and Ferrari that have a problem with it and Derrari are so fast even with the porpousing that it’s only Merc that are suffering pergormance wise.

      It’s tough luck, Merc need to figure it out like everyone else has

      1. Sorry for the bad typos….using my phone!!

    3. How on earth can this be a safety risk when at least 4 teams and maybe even more hardly show this problem. It’s “just” a mistake in the design which can be solved at the cost of performance.

      1. Agree, it’s only a safety risk because Mercedes insist on running the car low when it is clearly not suitable. Of course, if they don’t they will be even slower. This doesn’t make it a global safety risk it makes it a performance choice on behalf of Mercedes. If 44 or 63 want to complain then they need to complain about their team, not the specifications.

        As for a few days extra testing – where were all these sporting gestures / suggestions when Mercedes we dominating? Were fans proposing extra test days to help Honda sort out the engine? Laughable.

    4. @amg44 I’m in two minds about that proposal. On one hand it does seem a safety issue (especially in terms of potential chronic or long-term injury to drivers). The combination of limiting Mercedes wind tunnel time, budget caps and entirely new regulations – designed to put an end to Mercedes dominance, essentially – all seem to have led to an issue with porpoising in general and Mercedes in particular. On the other hand, as @bob2 says, Mercedes do have a solution to lessen harm to their drivers: go slower. The question is whether either driver wants or can insist on becoming a backmarker team to prevent injury to themselves. In fact, that’s where I think, ultimately, FIA needs to be monitoring the situation carefully and intervening if they think the drivers are exposing themselves to harm under pressure, however willing they say they are to try to ride out the bumping.

      1. @david-br Hard to say. Would they be living with it more (keeping more mum) like Ferrari does, if they were up there fighting with or beating Ferrari? Not that I have digested everything CL and CSjr have said on this, but are they complaining like GR is? Perhaps it is simply that it is way worse for GR and LH but just appears the same on TV. As they said during the coverage the Ferraris just settle in immediately and extremely well as soon as the porpoising has stopped. Would Ferrari have more performance without the porpoising? They don’t seem to be claiming they have big gains to come once they get rid of the bounce. Makes me wonder (doubt) if indeed Mercedes will find pace just be solving porpoising. You can have porpoising and pace. Mercedes only has one of those.

        1. @robbie Both Mercedes drivers complained a lot this weekend, it sounds worse and maybe even worsening. The issue, I think, is that surely this isn’t sustainable in health terms for an entire season. It’s really impossible to tell what Mercedes are up to. Their cautious approach to ‘understanding’ the car is coming at a heavy (unpleasant) cost for their drivers, though with all the limitations they probably have little choice (and you made a great point above about the chaotic nature of the GP venues, jumping continent every other week as though the global climate is doing just fine and everyone in the teams just loves the random time schedule changes – bizarre). I’ve seen lots of suggestions for dampening the porpoising. Will Mercedes implement any of them and will they work – releasing all that supposed potential? I thought so. Zero idea now.

    5. Testing is boring…

  18. FIA have to allow an ASIC-controlled ram to smooth out the bouncing. If all the teams have the same device it should be pretty fair.

    1. Yeah, but if some teams don’t have a problem then the FIA would be helping the teams that do. Obviously the problem is solvable; it’s up to the team(s) to fix their cars otherwise it is NOT fair to the teams that have no issues.

    2. It’s completely fair not to have it too.
      Some teams just need to figure out what the others have done to solve/avoid the issue.

      The last thing F1 needs is to reintroduce active suspension.

    3. It wouldn’t be fair if teams figured out the porpoising, and invested (within the budget cap this becomes even more risky) in solutions to compromise other design elements to solve it, and then the FIA allows a device that means teams who didn’t compromise their design to have a free fix.

      Like I said, other teams have ‘solved’ the problem. Mercedes CAN run a set up that eliminates the bouncing. That means porpoising is a choice.

      1. Maybe. Arguably it wasn’t fair for Mercedes to have less wind tunnel time when the car specs were changed. That measure makes sense when a team is ahead and other teams are trying to catch up under the same formula (regulations). But when those are changed, everyone is kind of back to zero. Ferrari had much more time and we’ve seen the result.

        1. It may not be ‘fair’ but the teams signed off on it.

          1. I guess they did. Fair point.

  19. The cars look silly bouncing down the track and it looks painful as well.

  20. The FIA could just mandate a maximum accumulated vertical g-force that a driver is allowed to be subjected to over the course of a race and put a sensor on the seat to measure it. This way, teams that have already figured out the porpoising won’t be punished, while those who haven’t will have to raise their ride height until they know how to handle it. That’s the best way to save the teams/drivers from themselves on their hunt for lap time, while intervening as little as possible.

  21. I. Assuming the. Merc car without the porpoising is actually very very fast. I think the cars that porpoise have the best ground effect which in ttheory means more downforce. However the porpoising is what is preventing them from Extracting maximin performance. They cant raise tthe car too much other wise they lose the ground effect completely. I hope they sort the issues out very soon.

  22. I really noticed the porpoising on the Ferrari as well yesterday so it’s not limited to Mercedes. It’s odd though that the Ferrari is so much faster. It can’t alll be due to the PU either.

    On the Red Bull though you don’t seem to see it all. I am not sure who else has mentioned it as a problem? I think McLaren did early on the year but maybe they too have solved the issue largely.

  23. If there was a quick fix for the Mercedes, it would already have been implemented.

    1. there are no quick fixes with budget caps and the other limits set by the FIA. This is part of the problem.

  24. FIA should mandate a device be fitted inside the cockpit to measure vertical oscillations, and prescribe a safe upper limit for qualifying/races (allowing them to test solutions in free practice). It’s their job to ensure teams run their cars safely, though it’s not their job to ensure teams can mitigate issues without losing performance.

    It would simply force some of them to raise the ride-height until they resolve the problem themselves.

    1. @simon999 Good idea and sound point about FIA responsibility.

    2. Why? The teams build the car, it’s up to them to solve it.

  25. Changes? Biggest, they went from 13 inch to 18 inch tyres. Now they have porpoising, not a surprise.

Comments are closed.