George Russell, Mercedes, Baku Street Circuit, 2022

Major accident due to high speed bouncing “just a matter of time” says Russell

2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Severe bouncing caused by cars bottoming out at high speeds will lead to a serious accident, says Mercedes driver and GPDA director George Russell.

Russell qualified fifth, 1.3 seconds off pole in Baku, after a session where both Mercedes drivers had been fighting with the car bottoming out and scraping the tarmac, causing violent bumping.

“The lap felt strong, the car was feeling good,” said Russell. “And it was pretty surprising when I crossed the line to see we were 1.3 seconds off the pace. For sure the bottoming’s been extreme.”

Drivers have battled from porpoising at high speeds across the first eight rounds of the 2022 season with new ground effect cars introduced this season. While many teams have found ways to reduce this phenomenon, teams run cars as low to the ground as possible, which leads to uncomfortable rides for drivers over bumps.

“We’ve kind of got on top of the porpoising issue,” Russell explained. “We’re now so close to the ground to get the maximum aerodynamic benefits and it’s just brutal out there and being shaken to pieces.

(L to R): Sergio Perez, Red Bull; Charles Leclerc, Ferrari; Baku Street Circuit, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying day in pictures
“I can barely see where to brake at the end of a straight because we’re bouncing around so much and I don’t think we’re the only car.

“I think probably half of the grid are in the same boat and frustratingly, probably Ferrari are in the same boat, but they somehow seem to make it work. So, let’s see. Everybody’s working super hard to try and resolve these issues.”

The problem was so severe on the affected cars that Russell believes a serious accident was an inevitability. “I think it’s just a matter of time before we see a major incident,” he warned.

“A lot of us can barely keep the car in a straight line over these bumps. We’re going around the last two corners at 300 kilometres an hour, bottoming out. You can visibly see on the tarmac how close the cars are running to the ground.

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“Formula 2 are in the same position as well – they’ve got a similar sort of philosophy and it’s sort of just unnecessary. With the technology we have in today’s environment, it just seems unnecessary how we’re running a Formula 1 car at over 200 miles an hour, millimetres from the ground and it’s a recipe for disaster.

“So I don’t really know what the future holds, but I don’t think we can sustain this for three years or however long these regulations are enforced.”

Russell emphasised that he did not think a change was necessary on Mercedes’ behalf and that it could even set back the team’s newfound understanding of its car.

“For what it’s worth, we’re not massively in favour for it, as a team,” he said. “Because every race we do, we’re learning more and more about the car and any changes is going to limit that learning. So it’s not like we want it, it’s clearly just it’s just a safety limitation.

“I think the top three teams are also in the same position, Ferrari and Red Bull – Ferrari probably more than Red Bull, you can clearly see that they’re really struggling with that and nobody’s doing it for performance enhancement, it’s because of safety reasons.

“As I said, I can barely see the braking zone because I’m bouncing around so much. And you go round that last corner, you’ve got walls either side of you doing almost 200 miles an hour and the car is bouncing up and down on the floor. It’s not a very comfortable position to be in.

“So as a group, we need a bit of a rethink.”

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2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....
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...

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25 comments on “Major accident due to high speed bouncing “just a matter of time” says Russell”

  1. Chris Horton
    11th June 2022, 18:42

    Run the car higher. You’re choosing to put the car in the window of the dangerous bouncing because there’s a performance advantage.

  2. Same reason drivers hated the ground effect cars of the 1970s/80s.

    They needed to be run so low and so stiff to get the benefit of the ground effect that it just led to cars bouncing around and it was something all of the drivers hated both in F1 & other categories at the time.

    And fixing the bouncing also is not necessarily as simple as raising the cars as that may actually make the bouncing worse as there’s more suspension travel.

    And an additional side effect is raising the car introduces a lot of instability and inconsistencies and can also lead to aerodynamic instabilities that can be a major problem if the pitch of the car changes suddenly. It was that which made the old Indycar Dallara so prone to taking off & while its a bit better with the current car it’s still an issue. Same with LMP cars.

  3. I understand him, but unfortunately, I don’t know how the general porpoising issue could get sorted without major changes, which aren’t due until 2026.
    These aero changes got made for racing quality improvement purposes.
    Any unplanned technical change could be a retrograde step on this front.

    1. How about mandating a minimum ride height? Less downforce and slower speeds but it should reduce porposing. Or maybe put skirts around the car floors like the early days?

    2. J-damper would fix it overnight! I just don’t get it how banning a passive suspension component is improving racing.

  4. Also note that the car bouncing & the car porpoising are not necessarily the same thing.

    The porpoising is when its happening at a consistent frequency while the bouncing is more related to the actual ride of the car over bumps and such.

    Its been frustrating hearing David Croft on commentary confuse the 2 and simply calling every bit of bouncing as porpoising.

    1. Aye Murray would have known that I’m sure through the legwork he put in to build relationships and spend the time talking to folk up and down the paddock.

  5. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    11th June 2022, 19:08

    It’s a huge safety concern…

    1. For some perhaps, so they need to raise their car then, or live with it. You’d be laughing at RBR if they were calling it too dangerous.

      1. Mercedes will get what they want since it is a safety concern. Worked with the Pirelli’s last year as well….

  6. I suspect 90% of these issues are the direct result of the FIA outlawing hydraulic suspension– a move that still frankly baffles me.

    Give the teams a standardized MagneRide(tm) unit controlled by the already standardized ECU and move on.

    It’s ridiculous that I can buy a more technologically advanced suspension system for a Ford Mustang than Ferrari can put on their F1 car.

  7. I think this “mayor incident” could appear in Monza if teams aren´t able to find a solution till then

    1. A race earlier mate, SPA is just an invitation for fatal accident with these kind of cars. Radillon + porpoising = rest place in the woods. FIA banned active suspension in 1994. and we know what happened, now they banned a simple passive component, J – damper, and we have disaster in the making. Some say raise ride height and live with it but this sport never operated with the mindset of sacrificing performance for safety. Obviously FIA decided to sacrifice safety for the show.

  8. Exclude the cars that bounce too much from racing, it is a matter of safety. Those constructiors just build bad cars.

    1. Yeah, just kill F1 and have 4 cars races from now on. Brilliant idea.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        11th June 2022, 19:46

        We’ve had 8 years of 2 cars racing and the rest making up the numbers because 1 team got their cars and engine right and the rest didn’t. At least there would be 4 cars this time….

        1. @petebaldwin I can’t speak for others, but whilst I agree that the fight for the win is a primary interest, I still find enjoyment in the race for lower places so for me, in some respects, it doesn’t matter if this battle is immediately behind the leaders or some way back. Of course, if everyone had a chance to win it would be even better, but I’m not sure this has ever really been the case anyway.

  9. Mercedes driver lobbying for rules changes because Mercedes team didn’t get their car design right.

  10. Its embarrasing for F1, and a direct result of their regulations. Dont know how this should attract any new viewers. Good for RBR, as they dont have the problem, but bad for the whole series.

    1. No not really. It’s early days and it is up to teams to figure this out. And as they do they’re still way better off than having clean air dependent cars. This change was badly needed and there is much development that will come yet. Once the teams that are struggling can adapt some of the ideas Ferrari and Red Bull got right from the get-go there will be a convergence of performance and much less porpoising. RBR has shown you can have an insignificant amount of it and be in Championship level form.

      But the difference to now and last year is that now all the teams can see what the others had on their drawing board back when this was all much more of an unknown between teams, and there was great surprise and delight at all the different iterations, the different takes each team had on interpreting the regs at pre-season time. Stability in the regs for next year should start to make the cars look more similar and have less and less porpoising.

  11. However, GR, you are actually taking quite a bit of license to suggest RBR are in the same boat. From day one of pre-season testing RBR have barely been affected by porpoising. At the same time Ferrari is showing us that you can have that amount of porpoising (not that they want it) and still be in race winning form. So if you’re lobbying for changes GR, afraid of three more years of this, you’re immediately shot down by having it pointed out that somehow Adrian Newey has managed these new regs just fine. As we were told throughout the Mercedes run of the first hybrid chapter it is up to everyone else to figure out and compete.

    Different story GR if every team was suffering as bad as Mercedes is, and then they (F1) would perhaps want to make reg changes to help all the teams, but that is not the case and claiming that RBR is in the same boat just tells me you’re just upset, and yeah, understandably so. You’re designers and engineers just need to do a better job. Perhaps next season we’ll see a Mercedes car that looks a lot more like a RBR car.

    1. @robbie back in April, Perez was complaining about porpoising and saying that the frequency at which the RB18 has had problems with porpoising has caused him temporary vision problems that made it difficult to focus on the track ahead of him at high speed.

      Similarly, both Sainz and Leclerc were stating only a few weeks ago that they were both experiencing back problems because of porpoising. Sainz in particular has stated that he is concerned about the potential for back injuries and longer term health problems, to the point that he was suggesting that the FIA should be stepping in to protect the drivers and that he was going to talk to Russell to bring a formal notification on behalf of the GPDA asking the FIA to look into the matter more closely.

      We’ve also had Madsen, Magnussen’s physio, stating only a couple of days ago that Magnussen has also been complaining that the cycles of tension and compression on his spinal column due to porpoising was causing him problems with his nervous system, resulting in severe pain in his jaw and arm.

  12. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    11th June 2022, 20:19

    So the rules need to change because some teams completely messed it up and didn’t look back at the problems that occured back in the day with ground effect? Dieter Rencken had a great piece on that recently with Marc Surer (I believe, might be Jody). It was not an unknown issue, teams just didn’t do a good enough job when it came to research.

    Some teams did their research and got it right. If it’s a safety concern, raise the car and be slower. Or don’t drive full throttle on the straights. Yeah, you’ll be as slow as the Williams, but it’s safe then. It’s not F1’s fault your team mocked it up George. Keep a sock in it and bite the bullet.

  13. FIA: Yes, but jewelry and underpants first.

  14. Standard anti-merc responses again but when I look at the Ferrari drivers I worry for long term brain issues due to the severity of their bouncing. Let alone Mercedes and others. It can’t be right to put the drivers through this whether you want any particular team to fail or not.

    I’m not convinced that a standardised suspension part to fix this safety issue would change the running order too much anyway would it? And even if it did, having more teams able to compete for wins would make the racing better.

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