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Bouncing and Porpoising, Two F1 Terms That Are Here To Stay

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There are now a few generations of Formula 1 racing fans who might not be aware of the term ‘bouncing’ but the phenomenon has now returned to F1 for the first time in forty years as a result of more recent rule changes by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile in an attempt at generating closer racing.

Fans will see the return of moves to limit how much a car can bounce when the Belgian Grand Prix cycles round on August 26-28, but this is despite significant pressure from the likes of title contenders Red Bull and Ferrari who rejected the reintroduction of limits.

However, the FIA has not backed down – namely because the move originated from drivers themselves who collectively asked for intervention after new rules were introduced at the beginning of the calendar which have made some tracks the equivalent of Kolikkopelit – a slot game if you do not speak Finnish – when it comes to driver comfort and concentration.

Their commitment to the change was confirmed at last Thursday’s meeting of F1’s technical advisory committee and the FIA will introduce a metric to determine the maximum amount of bouncing that each car will be permitted to make during Belgium and future race meets.

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In a statement, the FIA insisted that driver safety was paramount:

“It is the responsibility and prerogative of the FIA to intervene on safety matters.”

For the Belgian Grand Prix teams will now need to have made set up changes to ensure their car does not exceed the limit allowed, and teams could in fact face disqualification if a car provably breaches that limit during qualification or a race itself.

Further to this change, the FIA have also taken measures to limit the amount of flexibility in the floor of a car after reaching the conclusion that its measurements showed that bouncing rates in recent races strongly suggested some teams had found ways to flex their floors beyond original expectations and believed limits.

For those who are maybe unsure of what the term means, with changes to the aerodynamics of a car to reintroduce ground-effect, by which downforce is created by accelerating the airflow under the car’s floor, this has in turn created two different but related problems.

  1. When airflow is disrupted, the car raises because the downforce has been lost, and subsequently lowers as downforce is reintroduced – high-frequency vertical oscillation is known as porpoising;
  2. The stiffness of suspension set ups required to run ground effect efficiently, naturally lends itself to poor ride properties when going over bumps – the bouncing itself.

Drivers are understandably worried about the potential safety implications at play here given the speeds these cars can reach, and the intervention was asked for following a meeting at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix earlier in the season where for example, Lewis Hamilton faced vertical loads in excess of 10G in his Mercedes during the Baku race and it led him to stating that the race was “the most painful I’ve experienced.”

“I always want to get in the car. I just don’t want bouncing. I would do anything to avoid having that. [I am] worried for every time I am going to be back in the car. There were a lot of moments when I didn’t know whether I was going to make it, or whether I was going to keep the car on the track.

“I nearly lost it in the high-speed [corners] several times. The battle with the car was intense. Last 10 laps, I was just having to go internal: you’ve got this, you’ve got this, just bear with it,” added Hamilton.

He continued on to compare the experience to going into a cryotherapy chamber and just gritting your teeth to get through the experience but for understandable reasons, you do not want a driver not having full focus on the race itself.

It will be interesting to see if those teams who complained on the basis that they had bouncing under control and would therefore be unfairly punished here get any leeway in the future.