FIA’s technical directive on porpoising was not applicable – Ferrari

2022 Canadian Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by and

The FIA’s technical directive aimed at addressing Formula 1’s porpoising problem was not enforceable, Ferrari believe.

The sport’s governing body announced last week it had issued the directive on safety grounds. Several drivers have raised concerns over the severe bumping they have encountered in this year’s new generation of cars.

However Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said the technical directive issued by the FIA went beyond clarifying F1’s rules and introduced changes to them, which they cannot do.

“For us that TD is not applicable,” he told RaceFans and other media after Sunday’s race. “It’s something we mentioned to the FIA.

“The reason they are not applicable is a TD is there to clarify regulations or TDs are to address policy. But a TD is not there to change the regulations. You cannot change the regulations through a TD, that’s a guidance.”

The FIA can alter the rules for safety reasons via the Technical Advisory Committee, Binotto explained.

“On the safety grounds, what can FIA do is to first have consultations with the TAC, change the regulations and go straight to the World Council for formal approval of the change of the regulations, without having the approval of the teams on the safety grounds.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“But you do not change regulations with a TD. So that’s why we said that to FIA, for us those TDs were not applicable. As a matter of fact, they seem to have been issued by mistake.”

The directive states F1 teams would be permitted to add an extra stay to their floors to control bouncing. However during the race weekend Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer said teams that ran those parts could be subject to protests because technical directives cannot amend the regulations.

Binotto pointed out no teams ran the stays during Sunday’s race. “I think that the part of the metric has not been applied, the extra brackets have been not fitted in any car for the weekend, so [it was] a big noise for nothing.”

The porpoising problem was especially acute for teams on the long, bumpy straights of Baku. Although it was less severe in Montreal, Binotto still believes the problem needs be addressed.

“Porpoising is something that we need to tackle for the future and try to reduce it. We need to do that through maybe technical changes.

“I think that [in the race] it has not been such an issue. It’s track-related, I think the cars have developed, they will be developed as well.

“So it’s a technical issue that needs to be discussed and improved. How we do that I think for me it’s an open question.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2022 Canadian Grand Prix

Browse all 2022 Canadian Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
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.

27 comments on “FIA’s technical directive on porpoising was not applicable – Ferrari”

  1. Everyone should just marvel at Mercedes’ efficiency in bringing an illegal device to the car quicker than anyone else!

    Better keep that in mind when Mercedes come to you with their suspension wish list.

    1. It is a piece of metal that a machine shop operator could do in maybe an hour if you are generous on the time.

      Considering that we have had teams boast about being able to get far larger pieces of bodywork, such as an entire front wing assembly, built and transported to a circuit with 24 hours, do you really think that it would be that difficult to have done the same with a far simpler piece?

      In fact, Ferrari did exactly that only a couple of weeks earlier in Baku, where they fast tracked production on a new specification front wing between Friday and Saturday. What conspiracy theory are you going to come up with to explain how Ferrari could magically introduce that upgrade so quickly?

      1. Odd claim, given that Ferrari have raced one front wing spec since the beginning of the season. (though with a somewhat trimmed upper chord for aero balance on low-downforce tracks)

      2. Yep, that’s correct. It’s a piece of metal that, if you have the material on hand, could be made in a short period of time. But that is not quite the same as producing things overnight (the Ferrari wing you try to compare with). That wing was maybe something that was already in the pipeline, not quite as the (not expected) directive from the FIA.

        But even then it’s not so that you just bolt an extra stay on wherever you want because it has to be in the right spot where there is no chance to come loose, brake of or even damage weaker parts that are not designed to get this extra stiff piece of metal bolted on.

        One of the big issue’s is that all the teams have stated that the technical directive came too late to get this applied on the cars.
        So, Mercedes can ‘make’ a stay on hand in a very short period of time and all the other teams could not do that in the same time frame?
        Some team bosses even stated during a mediaconference that “Maybe Mercedes have got this kind of stuff in their pockets?”.

        Could be that this was pure quick acting from Mercedes, and good for them, but you cannot deny that this seams at least a little bit suspicious.

        Reply moderated
        1. A little more suspicious that all this coincided with the appointment of Wolff’s personal advisor as an interim secretary of the sport. She jumped ship directly to the FIA without observing the usual strict gardening leave that any Mercedes F1 employee is usually subjected to.

          1. Her leaving would have been subject to contractual clauses. It would not be possible to institute gardening leave if she was not leaving to a direct competitor which is what the gardening leave clauses are for. You are not taking fresh intelligence with you. Leaving to the governing body will have been a simple resignation followed by whatever the terms for termination were.

            Seeing guile and subterfuge when there is a very simple explanation is nonsense

          2. @marvinthemartian
            There is a difference between noncompete agreement where the worker is paid but no longer employed and gardening leave where a worker is instructed to stay away from work during his notice period while still on payroll. There is a minimum period to respect which is calculated according to the employment period. The employer may give you more than the statutory minimum, but they cannot give you less.

            I have no idea about Mercedes contracts but Toto Wolff’s modus operandi is very well known. He has been imposing strict clauses to all the staff working in F1. The senior figures are subject to stricter contractual clauses. This has emerged when Ferrari were desperately trying to sign one of the senior figures behind the 2014 Mercedes PU superiority (Andy Cowell and his closest assistants). They have found that they are subject to very strict clauses that will prevent them from leaving Mercedes before the end of their contracts.

            For someone shady like Wolff, to suggest that his personal advisor have simply decided to quit and join the FIA in a sensitive position out of the blue is naïve to say the least. This is a calculated move and there is no doubt that it was the result of a request from Mercedes following the events of the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP.

          3. You’re not going to be able to reason at all with somebody who has made it clear that they will refuse to accept any narrative that isn’t written with a heavy pro-Ferrari slant to it – anybody who doesn’t will be written off as biased foreign press, because he only believes what the biased Italian press keep telling him.

            Just look at the elaborate conspiracy theory around Cowell that he’s constructing to continue demonising Mercedes. Even most of the mainstream Italian press, let alone those in multiple other nations, reported that, whilst Ferrari seem to have made an approach to Cowell, he didn’t want to work for Ferrari and rejected the offer – the only person claiming that it was apparently a contract issue is this poster here.

          4. anon,
            Cowell had talks with Ferrari in 2014 before he has his contract extended. Mercedes realized the threat of their PU secrets being transferred to rival teams so they have extended the contracts of other senior figures (at least 10 engineers) till 2020 which at the time corresponded to the last year in the life of V6 hybrid PUs. It was basically impossible for any team to sign anyone of them before 2020.

            This was reported by Niki Lauda to Auto Motor Und Sport in 2014. Below are 3 links for you to read that make reference to Lauda’s original statement about Mercedes personnel having long term contracts :

            https://autosprint.corrieredellosport.it/news/formula1/2014/07/07-205009/mercedes_blinda_i_suoi_motoristi
            https://www.auto123.com/en/news/f1-niki-lauda-denies-ferrari-poaching-top-engineers/18213/
            https://motorsport.nextgen-auto.com/fr/formule-1/Lauda-Ferrari-ne-nous-a-pas-pris-nos-meilleurs-ingenieurs,78954.html

            What about Ben Hodgkinson ? He has been announced by RBR in April 2021 and was able to effectively join them last month after it was announced in January 2022 that both teams have reached an agreement. Jock Clear that announced his departure at the end of 2014 but was able to effectively join Ferrari only in 2016.

            It’s well known for the casual fans that Mercedes do have strict contractual clauses that they will not refrain to execute whenever an employee has waved goodbye to them. That’s not the point though. The point is how a senior figure, the personal advisor of Toto himself with legal background who have had access to probably all kind of Mercedes contracts, can directly join the FIA with no comment from Mercedes side.

            Then coincidentally, Mercedes were prepared and did have the updates before even a biased TD towards them was even issued. Both Ferrari and RBR have already disputed Toto’s claim about Mercedes ability to prepare it overnight. I think it’s legitimate to be suspicious in this case.

      3. So you can produce the stays, and maybe they’ve got the materials at hand. Maybe all they need to do is adapt the copies of the stays they’re already using, but even then, they need to know where to put them so they don’t cause other problems: Tears due to changed stresses in the materials after an hour of racing, vibrations on secondary parts that are not tested…
        Mercedes would not gamble on that on short notice, so I think they were well prepared, and the FIA followed their suggestion.

      4. You can’t do a piece of metal without simulating its impact on the car.

    2. Right. Because the Mercedes engineers are *SO* stupid, that when their car started exhibiting hideous bouncing and porpoising, no one at the factory thought “Gee, I wonder if a redesigned stay would help, even if it’s not legal at the moment?”.

      I forget which team principal started this particular BS line of reasoning, but they’re insulting to their engineers. Good engineers consider all possibilities, and even if they haven’t fabricated it, they’ve probably got a rough design sitting in a cad file somewhere.

  2. I agree with Binotto as a TD is just that, a directive, not a regulation. But something does have to be done as if not, it is not beyond someone to point out to the teams, who employ the drivers, that they are not compliant with health and safety laws in the countries in which they are racing. This thought process made me change my mind as to who is responsible for porpoising!

    Technically, as the majority of teams are based in the UK, they will be required to adhere to the Health and Safety at work Act, and specificaly, the Control of Vibrations at Work Regulations 2005, However, this is not an issue overseas as it only applies when engaged in work in the UK.

    That said, an extract from the UK HSE website also goes on to note the following

    The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 are based on a European Union Directive requiring similar basic laws throughout the Union on protecting workers from risks to their health and safety from vibration. The European Physical Agents (Vibration) Directive (2002/44/EC) deals with risks from vibration at work and is one of several Directives dealing with Physical Agents such as Noise and Vibration. They do not apply to members of the public exposed to vibration from non-work activities.

    That means that, by definition, and relevant to all teams when competing in the UK and Europe, the drivers cannot be exposed to levels of vibration that exceed the requirements of the Law local to the race track, otherwise they will be liable to prosecution under those applicable laws. I assume other jurisdictions have similar laws as Whole Body Vibration and Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome are definitively Occupational Health Issues. I expect the US department of Labor has applicable OSHA laws too.

    Now in my mind, this puts the FIA in a bind as they have prescribed the technical regulations that give rise to the OH hazard that needs to be controlled. Similarly, they have not given the teams all the tools necessary to manage the problem, or eliminate the problem such as active suspension. All the cars porpoise. All of them, it’s just a matter of how much. In reality, they have made the suspension regulations so simple that there is very little scope to manage the issue effectively. As it stands, under the applicable H&S laws, in the UK and Europe at least, as the regulator of the sport, the FIA has a duty to ensure that all teams comply with the applicable H&S laws in the jurisdiction in which they are racing, hence it is their problem. They are the arbiter of compliance with the regs AND LAW.

    All the teams porpoise but only some of the teams porpoise badly enough to need regulating. That some of them (on the face of it at least) comply with exposure limits mandated by applicable H&S laws means that the FIA can manage porpoising teams with administrative controls, i.e. by ensuring set up changes limit vertical acceleration. If, for whatever reason, not all the teams can be managed or the teams take umbrage over the regulations making a hazard inherant to the design, the FIA will have no choice other than to introduce a mechanical method by which to eliminate the problem.

    TL;DR the FIA has liability for the problem based on their regs and as such, needs to solve the problem or change the regs.

    It is an interesting problem and one without a quick, administrative soltion, and it has changed my mind as to who needs to solve it just by working this through. As much as the teams can reduce the issue through ride height, if it doesn’t work, it really is the FIA’s issue to correct

    1. That’s interesting – but you’re aiming at the wrong target, @marvinthemartian.
      The FIA are not the employer of any person at risk in such working conditions. The teams are subjecting their drivers to these conditions.
      The solutions are absolutely available to everyone – they’re just highly unattractive from a sporting standpoint.

      The FIA hold no liability for cars which act a certain way because of their unique design, setup or operation, as it is entirely possible to create and operate these cars in a manner that doesn’t induce such vibration.

      1. Correct, the FIA are not the employer and the drivers work for the teams, however, ALL the cars porpoise as a result of physics determined by aerodynamics which are determined by FIA technical regulations. They porpoise BECAUSE the regs have been followed. Red Bull, Alpine and the cars that don’t have problems still porpoise, but it’s minimal in comparison to Mercedes.

        If, by design, the porpoising cannot be eliminated to acceptable levels, the FIA do hold the liability for requiring a design that has an inherent quality, similar to a latent defect.

        Just using the British regs, the maximum frequency for Whole Body Vibration is 1.15m/s2 which is equivalent to just 0.1g. That is tiny. Now WBV is something that has a measurable frequency and it is not just random, or decaying bumps, it has to be effectively sinusoidal like porpoising and it’s measured not just in force, but hertz too, and people have to be exposed to it over a measurable period of time for it to have an effect and breach action and limit values, so TL;DR, it’s very complicated

        As an inherent characteristic of the ground effects aero, the FIA have liability as it is based on their regulations. If some of the teams exhibited NO porpoising or the suspension regulations allowed for some intelligence in hydraulic damping, it would be a different story.

        1. Yeah, but again – the FIA has no liability.
          Their technical rules state the bounds in which a car must be designed – what the teams do within those bounds is up to them. They can (all) run their cars in such a way as to produce no porpoising or bottoming whatsoever – however they are choosing not to.

          As an inherent characteristic of the ground effects aero, the FIA have liability as it is based on their regulations.

          Neither the FIA, nor the basic laws of physics, are forcing them, in any way, to produce the porpoising effect or aero/mechanical bouncing beyond what is reasonably acceptable for the nature of this given activity.
          Teams are simply choosing it of their own free will because it’s faster and cheaper to put up with it than implement an actual solution.

          1. Seems all the cars porpoise or can be made to porpoise. The standard approach to stop porpoising is to raise the ride height, increase the suspension stiffness or both. Insert note here about vibration and ride issues.
            Problem for Mercedes is that they built an extremely stiff chassis and suspension with very little useable travel. Works great on smooth tracks where they can get and stay low.
            Lewis H. has referred many times that they have raised the car as much as possible, but it doesn’t solve either the porpoising or ride quality problem. He said that there is no more height to be had.
            In video of the Ferrari bouncing due to porpoising, the suspension movement in jounce is considerable. The Mercedes, on the other hand, looks like a rigid go-cart.
            Mercedes designed a car for specific conditions and it clearly doesn’t work everywhere. Ferrari and Redbull have certainly done a better job of designing for a range of tracks.
            The Mercedes problem is of their own doing. Not sure when the Budget Cap is going to kick in, but it should limit what development they can do and what can be changed. Should be approaching that point soon.
            Gonna be interesting to see this play out over the rest of the season. Yes, there will be sparks.

    2. @Marvin, that’s a really interesting and informative write up that gave food for thought. @S makes the equally interesting point that the FIA isn’t the employer, but I’m not sure that lets them off the hook entirely.

      The FIA rulebook limits the amount of testing teams are allowed to do. A team like Merc could probably solve the vibration issues if they were allowed more track testing time. I know why there are testing limits, but with such a big set of changes to regulations this season, was sufficient time allowed for teams to address safety issues, and did the testing take in sufficient range of tracks to allow all the safety issues to be properly identified?

      Am I also right in thinking that the regs also limit the amount of wind tunnel time teams can use, and that in an effort to level up the field, the amount of time varies from team to team according to previous season’s results? Or did I imagine that last bit. Anyway, you still have the sticky situation that the FIA rulebook forbids teams doing what they need to do to fix the problems, (I really don’t think it is as simple as saying “raise your ride height”), and possibly some teams have been more limited by regs than others.

      The third issue is that we all saw that vibration was significantly worse in Baku, for example, than in Canada, and some of that is surely down to the track surface. Remember, it isn’t just porpoising that is a problem for the drivers spine, it is cars striking the ground. Again, the tracks are provided by the FIA, not the teams, and there is a good argument that some tracks are simply not up to the standard of smoothness that the FIA says they can expect.

      1. Again, the tracks are provided by the FIA, not the teams, and there is a good argument that some tracks are simply not up to the standard of smoothness that the FIA says they can expect.

        That, again, is entirely on the teams to design and operate their cars in a manner that can handle such surface undulations in a safe manner.
        Every team sends people to inspect the circuits weeks/months before the event to gather data on the surface and other points of interest. This data is then used to update their simulation tools so the teams can predict tyre wear, downforce levels and suspension settings.
        If the FIA ‘gave’ the teams, for example, a cobblestone circuit, then the teams simply need to make their cars work on it in a safe manner.

        Yes, teams do receive staggered amounts of wind tunnel time in an inverse relationship to their previous championship position. The champions get the least wind tunnel time, and the wooden spooners get the most. Of course, naturally those teams at the pointy end of the field generally have the ‘best’ tunnels and measuring equipment anyway, making their time generally more productive.

        And finally – yes again. Testing is limited but it doesn’t make any difference whether it’s a new rules set or merely an extension of an existing set. The teams will still always be focused on maximum performance at all times.
        And with track testing, all teams get the same amount so nobody is advantaged or disadvantaged relative to each other.
        Clearly, this year some have simply got it more right/wrong than others. Red Bull were second in the WCC last year, giving them the second smallest amount of wind tunnel/resource time – and yet they seem to have produced one of the fastest and most stable cars of the lot….
        It’s not how much time you get, it’s how you use it.

  3. It’s not the first time Technical Directives have been used to change the rules, so there is precedent.
    TD’s have been used to modify track limits rules for years… They’ve continuously ‘clarified’ “The track is defined by the white lines” with a directive that selectively put into effect the exact opposite.

    But then – the FIA has always been inconsistent, and this year is no exception.
    Consistently inconsistent…

    1. A TD confirming that an existing rule will be enforced is not the same as changing the rules.

      1. For the last few years, TD’s were used to state that track limits (as defined in the sporting regulations “…the white lines at all times”) at certain sections of certain circuits would not be enforced and/or would be enforced at a different place (ie, the outside of the kerb) – thus creating a change in the rules.

        This year, they have used TD’s to confirm the actual sporting regulations’ version of track limits will be enforced – however, they still selectively ‘forget’ to apply them.

  4. I think that FIA should define a max vertical G-force (or acceleration) on the lower back of driver (as a consequence of the porpoising) and the team cannot make a too much rigid car asset/regulation on suspensions that could result in vertical values over the limit. This to ensure the driver that his back will be safe, and not to allow Mercedes, or any other team, to infringe rules.

    Reply moderated
    1. Agree. That makes sense, then a team can’t sacrifice a drivers wellbeing for performance

      Reply moderated
  5. Indeed. Russell spilled the beans. The merc is not porpoising yet Hamilton’s baku race was the last drop for the introduction of a directive. The merc is too stiff in order not to porpoise.

  6. But it was OK for the FiA to violate the rules after badgering from Horner to give Max an undeserved WDC last year.

    Reply moderated
  7. The FiA are the regulators (like OSHA).
    They have a legal responsibility to ensure safety. If OSHA observes a hazard they work with the employer to come up with a solution that does not put them out of business. They are, and have been sued for over bearing or ineffective regulations.
    Individual inspectors have been successfully sued.

    Liability is shared: teams, FiA, F1 and tracks. Any of them can be sued.
    The FiA is in a worse position than OSHA, as they are a non-governmental private entity. They can be sued and courts will decide. Not public opinion.

    I have no issue with ANY employer going to regulators (I work for one and encourage it) with a safety concern and try to work out a solution. If the FiA dismisses it without due diligence, they are exposed.
    If they impose a solution that results in a severe competitive disadvantage (they are the sporting regulator in addition to safety) a cause could be made for them causing financial harm.
    They FiA has lawyers too, they know the possibilities.

    The fact that Horner does not care if others suffer harm to protect his competitive advantage does not put him in a good light. If the shoe was on the other other foot he would do the same, and has.
    In more egregious ways.

    There is no conspiracy.
    There is a problem.
    There is a solution.
    We won’t develop it.
    We are kibitzers.

    Reply moderated

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.
If the person you're replying to is a registered user you can notify them of your reply using '@username'.