Mick Schumacher, Haas, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2022

FIA’s floor change is needed to prevent cars bottoming out and crashing – Mercedes

2022 French Grand Prix

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Mercedes say there is a genuine safety concern behind the FIA’s move to change the design of cars’ floors for the 2023 Formula 1 season.

The sport’s governing body announced last week it intends to introduce new technical regulations for next year forcing teams to make changes to their floors. The FIA intends to reduce the phenomenon of porpoising some teams have experienced this year which it described as “a significant safety matter”.

The move is being opposed by some, including Red Bull, who pointed out not all teams have suffered from porpoising. However Mercedes’ head of trackside operations Andrew Shovlin said there are other safety concerns relating to the current design of the cars.

“Some teams wanted change, some wanted no change,” he said in today’s FIA press conference at Paul Ricard. “I think the compromise was just coming from teams that thought there will be a change, but we want it to be as minimal as possible.

“As we said, as teams we can probably all mitigate this. But if we want to actually get the cars running in a different way, these regulations will always have a car that wants to run very flat on the road.

“There have been a few notable accidents this year where the car is bottoming on the plank, as part of that, a driver loses control, goes over kerb, and it’s been the car hitting the ground that’s actually caused them to land in the barrier at speed. So that’s the bit, the safety argument, I think it’s as much about that as about the comfort.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner claimed the scale of the changes planned by the FIA was too drastic and had been announced too late in the day. Shovlin said the financial impact of the changes was ”practically nil”, but admitted he was keen for the matter to be resolved and final regulations agreed.

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“What we would like is clarity. Are they going to change? If so let’s get on with it and agree it.

“Our stance with the FIA has always been that as a team, we need to fix our problems ourselves. And we set that as an objective from day one, and we’re pretty confident that we could achieve that objective. So that’s why I say for us the big thing is we just want clarity on it.

“But the reality is that these cars will always run close to the ground, they’ll always be banging on the road. And whilst you can mitigate that and improve it, if we want to actually change it fundamentally, then it will need a change to the regulations.”

While Horner suggested the FIA’s action has been prompted by “lobbying” from a “certain team”, Shovlin pointed out there was no reason to assume a change would necessarily benefit Mercedes. He drew a comparison with the alterations to cars’ floors introduced in 2021 which proved disadvantageous to his team.

“You can understand the conundrum of teams that don’t want the regulations to change. We don’t know, as Mercedes, that a regulation change will suit us.

“If you think back to 2020 into 2021, we didn’t know that regulation change was going to hurt a low ride height car like ours and barely affect a high ride height. So we’re certainly not in a position of saying regulation changes are definitely going to be in favour of Mercedes.

“Our stance would be that if we want to solve some of the fundamental issues, you’re not going to do that leaving the rules alone. But when that rule came in 2020 on safety grounds Red Bull weren’t opposing it, Ferrari weren’t opposing it from the viewpoint of governance. But importantly, Mercedes weren’t opposing that change. But it happened, it didn’t suit us, and it happened.”

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McLaren technical director James Key said his team hasn’t suffered especially severe porpoising but supports the FIA’s efforts to change the rules on safety grounds.

“There’s obviously been some discussion on the porpoising issue and the FIA have raised the concern over driver welfare and safety which is definitely the correct approach. So we’ve been supportive of this, I think you can row back on a safety issue.

“I know there’s been a concern from some teams. Given, as a team that hasn’t particularly suffered from porpoising, we’re still in favour of it because we think it’s the right thing to do.”

The changes the FIA have proposed are not especially drastic, according to Key. “I think the sorts of things that have been proposed, they’re big enough to have to put fresh research onto it. Not everything is going to carry over in terms of your aerodynamic knowledge. There will be a few impacts on things like packaging and that sort of thing.

“But personally I don’t see it as a radical change enough to where you’ve got to step back and think, we’ve got to re-lay the car out now, because all of these things require something different.

“So I think there’s going to be a similar thread to what we’ve learned this year, but there will be a bit of fresh research based on things that we’ve already established. Floor height, for example, if that changes, it’s going to be broadly the same floor, just a bit higher. So what does that mean for us rather than something totally unfamiliar.”

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2022 French Grand Prix

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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...

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15 comments on “FIA’s floor change is needed to prevent cars bottoming out and crashing – Mercedes”

  1. Mercedes since 2014 have won 8 of 8 WCCs and 7 out of 8 WDCs. They are only half a year at the back foot and suddenly regulations need to change because apparently cars are bottoming out and crashing. Hypothetically.

    What sore losers.

  2. FIA’s floor change is needed to make us dominant

    – Mercedes, FTFY

  3. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    23rd July 2022, 12:28

    There’s something about Mercedes under Toto that makes things loathsome. Just the blatant lies to further their cause. Anything that pushes the car further back down the grid would help.

    1. Constantijn Blondel
      23rd July 2022, 12:34

      It’s the crocodile’s tears when it goes against them that I cannot stand. I mean, I wouldn’t want to compete against Christian Horner on an otherwise fair and level playground, but at least most of the time he’s honest about being a bit of a jackdonkey … and that’s something I appreciate.

  4. I don’t recall Mercedes crashing out in a race day this season due to porpoising or bottoming, did they?

    1. Nope. Not even on the day when it was the worst for them, after which suddenly it has not been happening to them upon their hand being forced by making them work towards a TD to do what they should have been doing already…taking measures to not torture their drivers while other drivers on other teams were not having nearly the same issues if any at all.

  5. The more they talk about it, the worse they are going to get hit. Just take your political “win” and those hollow wins that you might get afterward and shut up.

  6. Usual stupid Merc hate club here.

    1. Constantijn Blondel
      23rd July 2022, 15:18

      Pronouncing critical comments may or may not be mildly biased, but are otherwise phrased in a neutral, non-combatant way and without inflammatory language, “hate club” is perpetuating the problem and not helping it, sir.

      1. just look at the first comments to see the hate club. keeping up with the verstappens, thats what you get when reducing sports to a show, summoning the hooligan-like fans.

    2. It’s pathetic, all the usual suspects on hate autopilot. Same old same old. Wonder why they bother.

  7. Wouldn’t it be much cheaper, easier and fairer to install a sensor in the cars to measure the bouncing? If it exceeds a level that is considered dangerous the car will be shown a black flag.
    To prevent that, the teams have to set up the cars accordingly, for example run them higher…

  8. If I remember correctly there was a lot of criticism and bashing towards Ferrari and RBR at the start of the hybrid era when it was clear that they have messed the train and started asking for rule change. Luca Di Montezemolo after the Bahrain GP when he left furious before the end of the race asked Jean Todt to change the rules so they can compete.

    Jean Todt who refused and said at the time “This is not a banana republic, where someone turns up and says, ‘Let’s change.’ If you want changes, it has to be done through the regulatory framework”. Marko and Horner also lobbied to change the architecture to a simpler twin-turbo version of the current V6.

    The biased medias and naïve medias were parroting the Mercedes PR machine narrative that “We did a better job and it’s not their fault that the competition are doing bad, they need to up their game… blablabla”. The strange thing is that those same medias are silent now and forgot completely about the fairness argument and are again pushing the narrative fed by the Mercedes PR machine about safety and how purpoising is dangerous.

    Rules change debate “absurd”, Toto Wolff

    1. i guess things would be fine, when they just ban floors which flex beyond regulations. loopholes were declared to get closed beforehand, and the advantages of those exploiting will disappear. lets see

  9. The way I remembered it was that the plank was originally quite literally a chipboard plank which each team had to bolt onto the floor of their cars as a way of forcing them to increase ride height, and which could be checked for wear after the race as a measure of excessive low running. This was introduced for safety reasons, and over the following seasons, ride height was increased further, for safety reasons. There was no other reason that I am aware of, only safety. What has changed which means low ride height is now less of a safety issue than it was 10 years ago? I also don’t understand why teams were allowed to add titanium skids to reduce plank wear, since the original intent was that the plank should wear every time the car struck the ground. The plank was, effectively, the “safety sensor” on the underside of the car.

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