‘Too late in the day’ for FIA’s rules change to tackle porpoising in 2023 – Horner

2022 French Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says the rules changes the FIA have proposed to tackle porpoising in Formula 1 cars next year are too drastic and have been announced too late.

The FIA said last week it will impose technical changes on the cars for the 2023 F1 season on safety grounds to reduce the severity of the porpoising which some teams have experienced this year.

The new rules will raise the cars’ floor edges by 25mm and also alter the under-floor diffuser throat, both of which affect the powerful under-body aerodynamics which cars use to generate downforce. The FIA will also impose a tougher lateral floor deflection test.

Horner said the new rules will “change completely the philosophy and the height of the floor and the throat of the car for next year.” He also claimed the new rules had come about due to pressure exerted by a rival team upon the rule makers.

“I think there’s an awful lot of lobbying to change regulations significantly for next year, lifting [the side of the floor] so a certain team can run its car lower and benefit from that concept,” Horner told Sky. “It’s a very late point in the year to be doing this.”

“I think the president’s doing the right thing,” he added, “he’s collating all the information, and hopefully a sensible solution can be found because it’s too late in the day for fundamental regulation changes, which something like that would be.”

The FIA said the rules change is needed for next year as teams are likely to improve their designs to generate more downforce, which could make the porpoising problems worse. Although teams have generally encountered less porpoising in recent races, the FIA noted those events “took place at circuits where the effect is expected to be lower than normal” and “races where this effect is expected again to be higher will take place in the coming months.”

Horner disagreed with both points, and stated porpoising hasn’t been a concern for Red Bull throughout the season.

“We haven’t had a problem all year. There’s only one team that’s had a big problem.

“We’ve got some of the most talented engineers in the world in this sport and I can almost guarantee you, if we came back next year, there would be no cars, probably, with issues.

“At the last few races, it’s looked okay, here looks okay. So I think we don’t want to do is knee-jerk into an overreaction that could have fundamental impacts on next year’s cars.”

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Keith Collantine
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14 comments on “‘Too late in the day’ for FIA’s rules change to tackle porpoising in 2023 – Horner”

  1. Pretty sure even the Red Bull drivers mentioned porpoising at a few events. And with their history we can be sure this team is exploiting the heck out of flexible parts, it’s been one of their expertises over the years, so I get why they don’t like having that stopped.

    But that’s perfectly normal for F1 and the FIA and Liberty made it clear well ahead of the season they would be watching for anything exploitable and close any loopholes.

    1. @bascb you are correct that both Red Bull drivers have made some complaints about porpoising over the year. Perez noted earlier in the year that he had been having trouble spotting the brake markers at some circuits because the car was porpoising, and there have been some radio transmissions between Verstappen and his pit wall crew where Verstappen was telling them that he was in some discomfort because of porpoising.

      There are also allegations that there have actually been more instances of porpoising occurring on the Red Bull cars than the team wants to admit to, but Red Bull’s senior management has instructed both drivers that they must stay silent about it when talking to the press (because they don’t want their drivers saying anything that deviates from the line that Horner is pushing).

      1. @bascb, @anon,
        The thing is the FIA are going that dangerous Max Moley route of pulling the safety card to implement a rule change in this case biased towards Mercedes after lobbying and pathetic show mounted by Toto and his drivers and let’s not forget who is the current secretary of the sport. There is no safety concern on driver’s health with regard to porpoising.

        Riccardo Ceccarelli CEO & Founder of Formula Medicine Sport Clinic who is the medical doctor for 7 F1 teams : Red Bull, McLaren, Aston Martin, Alpine-Renault, Alfa Tauri, Haas, Alfa Romeo, Pirelli and F.1 Crew and has been involved in the sport for over 3 decades said that an investigation has been made to determine whether porpoising has an effect on drivers health or not. Guess what ? The result is that porpoising didn’t have no effect on their health.

        He refrained from commenting on the Mercedes drivers situation because he hasn’t examined them and have no proof whatsoever but his opinion and by what he called the general opinion in the paddock is that porpoising has been exaggerated to force a rule change on safety concerns. By the way, Riccardo Ceccarelli was the first to say that if porpoising is a serious issue then the FIA has to intervene to stop it. It was later discovered that the issue is not as serious as he thought it was.

        Just curious to know whose opinion is more reliable in this case ? A shady politician like Toto Wolff who has been known for being always politically correct and deflecting from the obvious to take an advantage or a credible medical doctor who has been involved long enough in the sport and giving his opinion on a medical issue that he has already examined and have tangible proof about it.

        1. @tifoso1989 is there also not a very clear financial conflict of interest for that particular doctor though, given that he has built up a business that is also dependent on the continued financial payments from the very same teams that have an active interest in denying that there are any potential health implications?

        2. Well, well, quite the essay there @tifoso1989. Thank you for adding this information about a doctor who is involved in the sport having looked at this.

          I will disregard the comments about Wolf, since I really don’t see there is much point to it. This is not about Wolf, I have noticed that since quite recently you have started expressing quite strong emotions against him somehow, and it shows. But let’s just leave preferences for how bad or less bad team principals are selfish and hypocrites out of this for now.

          I do think that as Anon mentions, there is a factor of conflict of interest in a doctor tied to some teams expressing their somewhat educated views – Surely it is better for teams not be deemed to put their drivers in a situation of discomfort, possible longer term health issues and unsafe situations than not.

          While these views are certainly interesting to learn about, I would be very hesitant to take their word for it already. We have had the porpoising only for a few races so it is clearly impossible to accurately judge any long term health effects. At best this can be taken as a bit of breather, in that the health of the drivers is not immediately in risk.

          More over, as we discussed above, the safety aspect is not just the immediate effect on health, nor even (yet, since we cannot have conclusive information on that this soon for lack of data) the longer term health of the drivers. We have seen drivers suffering enough discomfort that they had issues with concentration, they had issues seeing markers etc which all together shows quite clearly that there is a safety risk involved with racing while suffering the ill effects of it.

          1. @anon, @bascb
            What about the conflict of interests of Toto’s personal advisor being in charge of the sport now. Imagine the reaction if Horner’s personal assistant would have been nominated as a secretary of the sport.

            Besides, the doctor in question is involved with different teams that have different opinions about porpoising. Mclaren for example are in favour of the FIA suggested 2023 rule changes and RBR who are against it. If he was only involved with Ferrari and RBR, I won’t take his opinion for granted but he is not.

            You have also to consider that the law in Italy is very strict with regard to athletes getting hurt due to a faulty medical diagnosis. The doctor in question if he is biased in his opinion and omitting on purpose the severity of purpoising then he is really in deep troubles.

            I agree about the long terms effects that have to be considered and monitored closely. The thing is, tackling the purpoising issue for me at least is a no brainer if it will prevent drivers suffering short, medium or long terms effects. The issue here is the way the FIA is giving Mercedes a bailout because they have messed with their car concept and this is the only way to make it work. The rule change is biased towards Mercedes who coincidentally were the only team talkative about purpoising.

          2. @tifoso1989 the question is valid though, because there have been questions in a number of other sports about where the medical diagnosis has been biased by whomever the employer of that doctor has been and where questions have been raised about whether an individual should have been allowed to continue competing.

            To that end, whilst you claim that the law in Italy is very strict and doctors would be in trouble if they were covering up potential injuries, there have been incidents which strongly suggest that has happened. For example, in the world of motorsport, MotoGP, and motorcycle racing in general, has faced quite a few questions over how readily doctors would clear riders to continue competing, even though there were a lot of questions over whether the rider really was fit to continue.

            In 2021, the Moto3 race at Mugello saw one rider, Deniz Oncu, crash heavily during the final practice session – however, even though Oncu stated afterwards that he had lost consciousness and had suffered from short term memory loss, which is a pretty major warning sign that he’d suffered a serious head injuries, he was still allowed to continue racing.

            In the case of this particular doctor, can I also ask if said doctor was also the one who cleared Perez to continue driving for Sauber in 2012 after his crash in Monaco – even though Perez had to subsequently withdraw from the Canadian GP due to side effects from being concussed in Monaco, and with Perez subsequently indicating that he was still suffering from side effects from his concussion for several months after the Monaco GP?

          3. well, @tifoso1989, sure, there are strict regulations about doctors playing too much to the hand of teams/employers and hurting athletes in Italy (and with very good reason, looking at sports like football, cycling etc for example there have been boatloads of cases in the past where such a rule was badly needed).

            But here, that wouldn’t really apply at all. This is not about the doctor you mentioned giving their medical opinion on the health of a patient, but rather a more general opinionating of a quite well informed expert in the field who is at the same time bound to the interest of the people he works for.

            As you acknowledged, there really is no way of telling right now what longer term health effects are, since we naturally lack long term data. You keep harking on about this giving a specific advantage to Mercedes, but I really don’t get your sudden aggression towards the team. They clearly have a boatload of time to find – I suspect the engine is actually part of their deficit, and that is not going to be impacted by any change at all – to even get close to Red Bull and Ferrari.

            There have been signs that Ferrari is abusing the loophole about the skid blocks, something that doesn’t really involve the porpoising thing at all, it is just clearly something the FIA has to correct, and both they and Red Bull (and a few others probably too) seem to have found a way to flex their floors, another point where any fan should be in favour of the FIA stopping them from abusing loopholes and level the playing field.

            This is nothing new, or even especially about Mercedes. We’ve seen all teams looking for ways to show up Mercedes’ abusing things in the last decade. We saw both Red Bull getting caught with too flexy wings, and Ferrari getting their PU tuned down due to clear abuse of a loophole in measuring.

            The only time it was really unfair was in the times when the FIA kept helping Ferrari even when it was clear they were doing it without real merit (mass damper being a “moveable aero device”, or say the penalty for Hamilton in Spa for something nobody had ever thought an issue until then, for example). This is not that at all. Is it something with the Italian press at the time? Why the focus on Mercedes though when it is a battle between Red Bull and Ferrari at the front?

  2. In this case I largely agree with Horner.
    If the health risk of porpoising is the aggressively bottoming out, then FIA was on the right track to simply measure that and define a limit. The teams should design and run their cars to stay within these limits.
    Cutting 25mm off of the side of the car sound very much like FIA going too far in making a major change to the cars which were just introduced this year. And I understand that many believe this has been advised to them in whispers by the team that didn’t get it right immediately this year.

    PS a flexing floor (beyond some minimal limits) is of course a clear no-no; moveable aerodynamic parts is not allowed (and whilst they prohibit that can they also stop the overly flexing of the front and rear wings of some teams).

    1. jff, there have been questions raised about the quality of the data which was used to form the current regulation package though, given the nature of the wind tunnel testing that was undertaken by Brawn’s testing group.

      The wind tunnel tests that Brawn’s group carried out seem to have been limited to 50% and 60% scale models – it seems there was insufficient funding for full scale model tests – and there are also reports that Brawn’s wind tunnel tests seem to have also been limited to the same maximum wind speed (60 metres per second, or about 134mph) that the teams themselves are limited to.

      The indication is that there therefore do not seem to have been any direct physical models of the potential behaviour of the cars at higher speeds when the rules were developed, where they would have had to rely on CFD models only – and it is notable that the problems with porpoising have tended to be more common in the higher speed regimes where there has been no direct physical modelling.

      There have also been questions raised about whether the wind tunnel models that Symonds’s team were using would have been capable of spotting porpoising issues – there have been some individuals who have used wind tunnels who have pointed out that the most common way of supporting the car within the wind tunnel, which does seem to have been what Symonds’s team used, tend to damp out the sort of high speed oscillations and instabilities in airflow that would otherwise cause porpoising to occur on a real car.

      The FIA and Liberty Media would therefore have only had a rather limited understanding of the potential behaviour of the cars at those higher speed regimes when developing the current regulations, and they would have been dependent on monitoring data from the current cars to see whether the objectives that they had aimed for were being achieved and whether there were any potential issues that might need to be rectified.

      If you look at the proposed changes, the changes are similar in nature to changes that have also cropped up on other racing series that have made heavier use of sculpted underfloors, and particularly that of IndyCar, where porpoising has also been largely designed out. That does also point towards the FIA making empirically based modifications that are shifting F1 towards a design philosophy that is more common in other series that have greater experience in designing regulation packages around the use of sculpted underfloors.

      1. Long answer, but you missed the point I made:
        1) if porpoising is the problem, then define what (dangerous) porpoising is and tell teams to solve it by staying within acceptable limits. FIA should not DESIGN a car so it doesn’t porpoise; they should DEFINE the acceptable ‘vertical movements’ which are acceptable
        2) you refer to the testing before this season; I’m talking about the measurement devices they put in the car only recently.

        FIA did well by defining a new set of regulations for 2022. They should now leave it to the teams to develop cars within those regulations, and don’t change the regulations within 1 year after they introduced them.

        You will recall the fuel flow issues in the past. When RBR and Ferrari had ‘issues’, FIA didn’t change the rules by defining how fuel must flow, but they defined which, and how many, measuring devices had to be used to make sure the teams developed fuel flow systems within the existing rules.

        And similarly, when one team has difficult to stay within the white lines, we do not expect FIA to repaint the white lines for the next season. We expect them to tell all teams to stay within those limits. The teams should solve it.

        I’m not saying the 25mm is defined to help one team. But it does seem a major rule change which will significantly impact all teams, and not just those who have the health issues (porpoising).

        1. jff, but the FIA has repeatedly stepped in with rule changes over the past that have sought to directly control the way in which the car behaves. Even the original ground effect era saw annual changes in the regulation package that was designed to control performance, from restrictions on sliding skirts to restricting the length of the tunnels to introducing minimum ride height requirements.

          More recently, nobody seemed to have a particular problem with the FIA making major rule changes that would significantly impact all of the teams – it’s something that has occurred on a pretty regular basis, in fact. When we had a major rule change in 2014, did you think it was wrong of the FIA to then change the front impact structure regulations in 2015, particularly when that was in part driven by complaints about aesthetic concerns (the “finger” noses that were being mocked at the time)? When the FIA introduced new regulations in 2017, that did not stop them from then modifying the regulations in 2018 and 2019 with rule changes that hit all of the teams on the grid – was it wrong of the FIA to continue modifying the regulations after a major rule change?

          Why is it only now that you are stating that the FIA should not be modifying the rules a year after a major regulation change, when other major rule changes within 12 months of a regulation change were perfectly fine with you in the past?

          The examples you are giving in your post are also pretty strange comparisons. You say the “FIA didn’t change the rules by defining how fuel must flow” – but the regulations explicitly state the formula that links the fuel flow rate to engine rpm to define the fuel rate at which the fuel is required to flow, not to mention containing a wider raft of regulations that relate to the design of the fuel lines, fuel tanks and the storage of fuel within the car.

          The whole point behind Red Bull’s disqualification in the 2014 Australian GP, which is what I believe you are referring to, is that they were being penalised for an explicit breach of the maximum fuel flow rate of 100kg/hr when the engine rpm was above 10,500rpm – to quote from the FIA’s official notice on the penalty, “Car 3 exceeded the required fuel mass flow of 100kg/h. (Article 5.1.4 of the Formula One Technical Regulations)”.

          The FIA pointed out in that ruling that “Technical Directive 01614 (1 March 2014) provides the methodology by which the sensor will be used, and, should the sensor fail, the method by which the alternate model could be used.”, with the FIA then pointing out that another reason for the penalty was that Red Bull had also refused to use the alternative method for measuring the fuel flow rate.

          If, with Ferrari, you are referring to the arguments over their engine in 2019, then the point for the investigation was that Ferrari’s actions were understood to involve direct breaches of the technical regulations – it involved breaching the regulations (5.1.4 and 5.1.5) which explicitly define the maximum fuel flow rate, and would also have involved breaching article 6 defining where fuel can be stored around the car and the volume of fuel which can be stored outside of the fuel cell.

          Whilst the FIA “defined which, and how many, measuring devices had to be used”, that was only as a means of determining if the teams stuck to the fuel flow rates which is specified within the regulations. The FIA also issued a series of Technical Directives during the 2019 season that directly targeted that issue, such as the one before the US GP that reminded teams that “any device, system or procedure the purpose and/or effect of which is to increase the flow rate or to store and recycle fuel after the measurement point is prohibited” and would be considered as breaches of articles 5.1.4 and 5.1.5 of the regulations.

          The reason that the FIA was taking action in those cases was because the regulations contained explicit restrictions on fuel flow and fuel storage that those teams were being investigated under – there was no change to the regulations to define how fuel must flow, because that was what the regulations already defined.

          As for the comment that “And similarly, when one team has difficult to stay within the white lines, we do not expect FIA to repaint the white lines for the next season. We expect them to tell all teams to stay within those limits.” – well, you know full well that the enforcement of where exactly the track limits are is a point that is a constant point of contention. Asides from that, there have been cases where the FIA has effectively changed the way in which they would enforce track limits between sessions in the same race weekend, let alone from one year to the next.

          A particularly famous example would be the 2003 Austrian GP, where the decision was made between the first and second practice sessions that, rather than penalising drivers for running wide at Turn 1, they instead decided to redefine the track limits at that corner to allow drivers to run wide – so yes, there are in fact examples where the FIA did decide to redefine the track limits to avoid having to penalise drivers.

  3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    23rd July 2022, 14:02

    I agree with the change – Zhou Guanyu’s accident was unlike anything we’ve seen in F1. There’s definitely something wrong with these cars and we’ve been lucky that it hasn’t resulted in injury yet.

    At the same, I can certainly understand Red Bull’s trepidations that they may no longer have a clear lead over other teams particularly Mercedes based on what happened in the previous era.

    I, and many others, were 100% wrong about the Halo as it clearly saved Zhou’s life. I think that when it comes to safety, it’s the FIA’s primary responsibility to put safety ahead of everything. Let’s all hope that there are no more life-threatening accidents this season and things are safer next year.

    1. I don’t think (and certainly haven’t read) that Zhou’s accident had anything to do with porpoising.

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