FIA no longer applying its limit on F1 cars ‘porpoising’

2023 F1 season

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The FIA has stopped enforcing a limit on the severity of ‘porpoising’ by Formula 1 cars, but is prepared to reintroduce it if required.

The potential risk of porpoising to drivers became a concern following the introduction of new technical regulations last year. The high levels of downforce generated by the floors of the redesigned cars led to many of them oscillating up and down on their suspension, a phenomenon known as porpoising.

In reaction the FIA devised an Aerodynamic Oscillation Metric to monitor the severity of the phenomenon and impose a limit on it. This came into force from the Belgian Grand Prix as part of an update to Technical Directive 039.

The FIA is continuing to use the AOM to monitor porpoising by the cars which teams are racing this year. However having observed a reduction in the severity of porpoising in general, it stopped enforcing the limit as of the first race of the season in Bahrain earlier this month.

Teams were told of the change in enforcement of the rules. RaceFans understands they have been advised that if the phenomenon worsens the FIA is prepared to reintroduce the limit. This could be done quickly, as the apparatus to monitor porpoising is already in place.

The restrictions on porpoising were required on safety grounds, the FIA said when they were introduced, explaining it “decided to intervene following consultation with its doctors in the interests of safety of the drivers”.

“In a sport where the competitors are routinely driving at speeds in excess of 300km/h, it is considered that all of a driver’s concentration needs to be focused on that task and that excessive fatigue or pain experienced by a driver could have significant consequences should it result in a loss of concentration,” it continued. “In addition, the FIA has concerns in relation to the immediate physical impact on the health of the drivers, a number of whom have reported back pain following recent events.”

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However some teams questioned the need for the limit when it was introduced, arguing that the extent of porpoising was already in decline and would continue to diminish. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner claimed rival reams exaggerated the extent of the problem and criticised the use of a metric to set a limit on porpoising.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Baku Street Circuit, 2022
Mercedes particularly suffered from porpoising in Baku last year
“Hopefully it’s only something that will be there for this year as it’s something that hopefully all teams will be on top of as I’m sure the cars will converge next year,” he said last July. “It’s certainly not a precedent that we want to go down otherwise set-ups will be being dictated by FIA directives.”

At least one team feared it would exceed the metric during the 2022 season. McLaren gave a series of messages to Lando Norris during the Singapore Grand Prix urging him to change his line to reduce the risk of exceeding the limit.

Since the new season began several teams have reported they have encountered fewer problems with porpoising, notably Mercedes who suffered the problem most acutely last year. But others have suggested the problem hasn’t been entirely eradicated.

“It’s definitely better than this time last year, but it’s not gone,” said Valtteri Bottas during pre-season testing in Bahrain. “It is still there and you still need to compromise a bit with the set-up. It seemed with most of the cars that some sections of the track it’s still there and still a little issue that one needs to deal with.”

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2023 F1 season

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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...

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21 comments on “FIA no longer applying its limit on F1 cars ‘porpoising’”

  1. It failed to serve its purpose. Other means will have to be thought up.

    1. My thoughts exactly ;-)

    2. @proesterchen It failed to serve its ‘porpoise’.

    3. Should be interesting what Mercedes comes up… oh wait, what the FIA comes up with next!

      On a more serious note; either they police this at all times (and there are good reasons for doing so, as micro-concussions are becoming ever more of a serious concern in other sports, from luge to football) or they ignore the theatrics at Mercedes and focus instead on strictly enforcing and perhaps tightening up the regulations on plank wear. Unfortunately, as one can expect, instead the FIA offers more silliness.

      1. Funny how first the FIA are biased and favor Red Bull in manipulating race results so that the RB driver gets the championship, and suddenly in the next season the FIA is favoring the exact opposite team.

        The FIA does have a serious image problem.

        Personally, I never understood how limiting the power of porpoising was ever going to slow down Red Bull, who was barely porpoising as it was before the rules. Limiting the power of porpoising (frequency, or amplitude?) would only limit those teams that were exceeding the arbitrary limits that would be set by the new meddling rules.

        Meddling in as fine detail as measuring G-forces of bouncing, is where the FIA show their incompetence, and frankly are butting their noses in where they don’t belong. They should only really be concerned with ride height and tyre pressure.

        1. You must have been watching a different 2021 season then. Apart from some mismanagement of the last race FIA was clearly the reason Mercedes could remain competitive until that last race (tyre compound change mid-season anyone?). The season without FIA intervention would have been wrapped up 3 or 4 races before. It was history’s most scripted season ever.

        2. The FIA does have a serious image problem.

          They do, absolutely. But some of their antics have been dubious, others merely incompetent.

          F1 is very inward looking. It shows everywhere, from keeping the same questionable race director for decades, appointing former F1 drivers to be stewards who then refuse to penalize their ‘mates’, having team bosses weigh in live with race direction (“No safety car Michael!”), and just generally having a bunch of weak officials that seem thrilled by the idea of being involved in F1 and refuse to even enforce basic rules for fear of upsetting the teams – who have always had, but now blatantly demonstrate, the ability to get rid of someone they don’t like. And it’s not just the FIA; Liberty too apparently can’t find anyone other than the formerly-banned Patrick Symonds to spearhead their technical schemes.

  2. Seems silly to remove something implemented for driver safety. The worry is that the damage this sort of thing can do to driver might not be known until many years later when we find a generation of drivers suffering with early on set dementia or other brain and nerve injuries. Clearly the sport is not without significant risk and danger but seeing drivers heads bouncing around adds nothing to the show but could seriously harm them in years to come. I think it was actually sensible to add the sensors and monitor the data and it’s good they will continue but I don’t see why they need to remove the limits unless the phenomenon is completely removed which is unlikely in the new ground effect era.

    1. @slowmo Well-put, I couldn’t agree more with you.

    2. It was brought in to appease Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton after his Oscar-worthy dramatics in Baku last year.

      I guess that since his car is no longer bouncing (largely due to the raised floor rules) this rule is no longer required?

      1. Exactly but watch the foot stamping and breath holding if “Project Equal” comes to fruition!
        It was my work mine mine I’m not going to play anymore.

        Sorry can’t put source here.

      2. I never could quite wrap my head around this narrative. Rewinding to early 2022, we have Mercedes bouncing around like a basketball, Ferrari bouncing just a touch on the straights and settling down in the corners, and Red Bull not really bouncing at all (likely because Newey is a magician). The belief is that Mercedes pushed for a limit to how much cars are allowed to bounce in order to disadvantage their rivals? Who are bouncing far less than they are? How exactly does that track? “If we put in a limit on how much bouncing is allowed, we (we being Mercedes, the team with the most bouncing) will definitely be able to catch Red Bull and Ferrari (who are not bouncing)!”. How on earth? This rule impacted teams with more bouncing far more than teams with less…. as it was designed to…. in order to protect drivers from teams more concerned with results than driver safety (looking at you McLaren).

        There is probably a case to be made that the 2023 rule changes were designed to hurt performance, but it sure doesn’t seem to have impacted Red Bull. Maybe Ferrari? That’s F1 for you though. The FIA will constantly try to hurt a dominant team until they succeed. Took them 8 years with Mercedes before they finally got them with the high rake/low rake thing in 2021. Let’s see how long it takes with Red Bull. Looks like it could be a while.

      3. Speaking as a Merc/LH fan – I call “bull” on your comments.

        As others have pointed out it affected Merc and Ferrari more than RBR. I’d say leave it in place.
        Assigning a limit and monitoring for breaches seems sensible, if they think they might need to re-introoduce it – why remove it?

      4. “his Oscar-worthy dramatics” brought tears to my tired old eyes. Like World Cup flopper-oos.

    3. Seems silly to remove something implemented for driver safety.

      Agreed, if there is a safety concern which led to limits backed up by medical advice, surely removing those limits could lead to teams doing something dangerous. This is akin to the FIA saying “We haven’t had a crash as bad as those we test the safety cell for in several years, so we’re going to stop some of those tests”.

  3. That’s some special kind of logic from the FIA on that one…

    FIA “No one uses more than 12 sets of tyres any more so we don’t need to enforce that now.”

    Next race Red Bull turns up with 40 sets each.

    FIA *Genuinely confused and surprised*

    1. To be fair that should have said *all teams* instead of just Red Bull…

    2. Precisely. Have they ever thought that part of the reason the porpoising was reduced was because of the limits, so without the limits some teams could well push things towards dangerous levels of porpoising again in a bid to gain performance?

  4. Anyone have any statistics on what this measure actually did in terms of relative performance last year? It seemed to affect Ferrari more and even Mercedes, not Red Bull. This season Russell, I think, was saying that the car was now too gentle: isn’t dropping the porpoising rule actually more likely to benefit Mercedes and their low rake design – presuming they don’t go too far, start causing their drivers more harm again, and provoke FIA to intervene and reinstate the regulation?

  5. When the FIA issued the TD for the metrics on the G loads that the instrumentation would record and the loads the drivers would see, there was no obvious threat of penalties, time, points or …?? should a team exceed the limits.
    While us mere normal enthusiasts have limited access to the inner workings, there were very few mentions or indications of the FIA actually applying any threat or even a penalty for a transgression. Outcome, no penalties.
    The cars continued to porpoise and to bounce (two distinctly different phenomena) and sparks were trailed as per normal.
    There were however a few radio exchanges with teams cautioning drivers to revise their line in certain corners to avoid specific bumps, but never any indication of a penalty. Lando N. got a specific team radio instruction at Spa to change his line, if memory serves me.
    Did the TD achieve anything, not likely. It may have prompted Mercedes and a few other teams to monitor the shock loads to the drivers, but it is not obvious if there were any noticeable changes to driver’s lines, curb antics or the set-up for the cars. Maybe there were changes, but nothing we would notice.
    Of course, the ultimate answer is a page from Colin Chapman’s Lotus 88 design and put the driver in a suspended and shock isolated seat assembly. Then the trick is connecting the driver’s butt to the wheels so he can “feel” the grip.

  6. The FIA has stopped enforcing a limit on the severity of ‘porpoising’ by Formula 1 cars, but is prepared to reintroduce it if required.

    Bad decision! Poor decision! The FIA need to keep enforcing it otherwise the driver’s safety is at risk. Rescinding this rule until it is required again simply means the next time it happens then the FIA can’t fine the offending team because their rule wasn’t in force. If the Stewards see a car with that problem on the track and the rule is in force then they can demand the team call the car in and to fix it immediately, and to fine the team for letting the car out onto the track like that. If the rule isn’t in force then they don’t have the authority to demand immediate action from the team, they can’t fine the team, they have to ask nicely, and the team has the right to refuse to call the driver in and have the fixed immediately.

    … if the phenomenon worsens the FIA is prepared to reintroduce the limit. This could be done quickly, as the apparatus to monitor porpoising is already in place.

    Ha! The FIA isn’t just rescinding on the rule, they are turning an even more blind eye to the problem. “… if the phenomenon worsens …” means whatever the standard was before they rescinded the rule has been lowered. So now the next offence doesn’t just have to exceed whatever the standard was before the FIA rescinded the recent rules, it has to be even worse than that before the FIA will do anything, and then the first offender gets away with it because the rule wasn’t in force.

    However some teams questioned the need for the limit when it was introduced, arguing that the extent of porpoising was already in decline and would continue to diminish.

    One can argue the reason for the decline was the threat of the FIA bringing in the rules regarding porpoising, so rescinding the rules about it simply means teams are allowed to set up their cars so they will return to porpoising. Then if the FIA complains then some teams will trot out the old “The rules don’t say we can’t set up the cars like this, so we did” nonsense.
    The best solution is for the rules regarding porpoising to remain in force.
    The fact is teams should have know porpoising was going to happen during the design phase, and some teams put the effort in to avoid the problem while others didn’t.

    Hopefully it’s only something that will be there for this year as it’s something that hopefully all teams will be on top of as I’m sure the cars will converge next year,…It’s certainly not a precedent that we want to go down otherwise set-ups will be being dictated by FIA directives.

    An F1 car was already set up according to FIA directives. What this rule did was make teams pay for set ups that are foolish and unsafe.

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