The FIA has issued a statement on Thursday announcing they will intervene to push the Formula 1 teams to reduce “porpoising” via a new Technical Directive, so what does that mean? Tech Draft analyses.
Thursday’s statement by the FIA that it has issued a Technical Directive (TD) giving short term guidance to the teams about the measures they intend to take in tackling the bouncing issue common in Formula 1 in 2022, and that more medium term solutions are to be collaboratively planned with the teams, is a very important and welcome action, as is the speed with which it took to do so.
Just to make things clear, the FIA’s TD is not only about “porpoising”, but it also tackles bouncing as well, so it is worthwhile noting that I didn’t refer to the issue as “porpoising” simply because the aerodynamic induced bouncing that is “porpoising” is only one of the bouncing behaviours that needs addressing.
As teams continue to resolve, or rather mitigate to some degree, the “porpoising” they might have begun the season experiencing, a fair degree of the vicious bouncing we have seen recently has simply been because of bumps in circuits and the extreme bouncing resulting from the need for ground effect cars to be very stiffly sprung.
The use of stiffer springs in a ground effect car is key to maintaining optimal ride height, and critically the attitudinal control of the aerodynamic platform.
FIA makes TD’s publicly available? Yeah, right!
As you may be aware, in 2021, the GrandPrix247 team lobbied the FIA vigorously regarding the lack of public access and transparency related to Formula 1 TD’s, to which we were quite pleased when ultimately, they informed us that all F1 TD’s would consequently be published on the FIA website in future.
When the FIA released the statement on Thursday I must admit to a degree of personal frustration and disappointment because when I went looking for the TD so that I could read it, it was nowhere to be found.
Further digging revealed that whilst TD’s are indeed uploaded to an FIA website, rather than it being the publicly accessible website, it is instead a secure FTP site that can only be accessed by accredited personnel.
We have reached out to the FIA requesting access to it.
What does the TD mean?
Getting down to business, there seems to be some confusion as to what the TD means, and what solutions might result.
What the TD is in effect saying, is that the FIA acknowledges the issue with respect to the safety of the drivers, and that they intend on putting both short and medium term actions in place to mitigate the risk to the drivers, all of which are to be defined.
Starting with “the plank”, that is a 10mm plywood veneer composite fixed with titanium fasteners to the bottom of the carbon monocoque and used as a means to limit the ride height of an F1 car.
It was introduced in 1994 as a reaction to the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994.
The FIA have stated that they intend on paying closer scrutiny to the planks and skids in terms of their design and the observed wear.
I am sure that this statement does by no means imply that they have been neglecting to check the planks, but rather in the short term they will be checking more often with the intent of compiling a larger subset data on design and wear to help them find a way forward with them in the future towards a solution to the bouncing issue.
The second step would be coming up with a “vertical acceleration metric” in determining an acceptable level of oscillation.
You don’t necessarily need to be an engineer to understand some of Newtons basic laws of physics. The first law essentially derives that a body of mass that is accelerated produces a resultant force.
However, the second law tells us that when a body experiences a change in momentum, the force exerted on that body is directly proportional to that change, and inversely proportional to the time taken for that change to occur.
The faster a driver is bouncing at 10G, the more force the driver experiences.
By stating that the TD will define a vertical acceleration metric to limit vertical oscillations, the FIA are rightly conceding that the bouncing issue is not caused by a car’s ride height, but instead it is due to a lack of vertical acceleration control, and they intend on defining a vertical acceleration limit, which if exceeded, I suspect would result in a black flag associated to a mandatory change to the car intended to resolve the issue, and ultimately a disqualification if it continues.
It would make sense to me for the FIA to use the accelerometer data available to them from every F1 driver’s mandatory earpiece.
Convening with the teams to nut out a longer term solution
There are multiple valid avenues that can be taken in defining a longer term solution to the extreme bouncing that is occurring in 2022.
The simplest measure, raising the minimum ride height of the cars, is one that I suspect will not be explored simply because it will reduce the cornering capacity of the cars across the board, which would be unacceptable because whilst F1 is looking for closer racing and more overtaking, it still wants and needs to be the fastest category on earth.
Fast cornering cars are a big and important part of the spectacle that F1 is.
Another often discussed solution to the issue, is permitting active suspension. Again, the reintroduction of active suspension would be a very effective measure.
Nevertheless, with many teams’ operational cost caps already seemingly running close to maximum, and the cars experiencing horrid weight issues, I don’t necessarily think even – with its close relevance to road car technology – that active will be considered.
The current F1 car does not need another reasonably heavy and complicated system to be integrated into it.
One very worthy consideration might very well be the lifting of the ban on the use of mass or inertia dampers for use on the third (heave) element control.
All teams would have very recent experience in their design, manufacture, and use as they were only banned as of the end of the 2021 season. In 2022 the mass damper in F1 isn’t an overly complex piece of technology, and they are reasonably cost effective to manufacture. The net weight trade off would effectively be negligible.
Regardless of what mechanical solutions might be considered, I do suspect that the longer term solution might involve F1 and the teams working together with their wind tunnel data with the view to further define the technical regulations relating to the underfloor Venturi and sides’ design to a condition that is far less sensitive to stall.