FIA rule changes a win for Mercedes, but for how long?

Mercedes Villeneuve: Russell riding wave, Hamilton trying not to drown

After the last couple of months of almost constant discussion about the issues surrounding the topics of porpoising and bouncing that has crept back into the 2022 Formula 1 season.

The FIA World Motor Sport Council have finally pushed through their desired rule changes for the remainder of this season and the coming 2023 Championship – although these changes continue to attract accusations of favouring the bigger race teams.

With the changes now confirmed, this Kasino produced analysis confirms what we know, namely the edge of a cars’ floors will be raised, as will the diffuser throat height and floor edges will be stiffened to offset the bouncing issues the likes of Mercedes have been plagued with this year.

Given the split between drivers and race teams, with Ferrari and Red Bull strongly opposed to these changes, a compromise was reached on a 15mm floor raise and the FIA is hoping to implement these new changes in a way that should ‘avoid any impact on the teams’ designs of the mechanical components’.

However, given how late in the day these new regulations have come into play, naturally, smaller race teams feel they are now at a big disadvantage because they obviously have fewer resources and an awful lot of work has gone into 2023 designs already will almost all teams already at an advanced stage of machinery.

Pat Fry (GBR) Renault F1 Team Technical Director (Chassis). Renault F1 Team. Friday 7th February 2020. Enstone England. Pat Fry (GBR) Technical Director

Speaking just ahead of the rule change announcement, Alpine chief technical officer Pat Fry explained one potential consequence moving forward: “For us it is engineering resource, we’ve clearly got a lot smaller aero department than the three above us and the one we are fighting with, they are all bigger than us.

“They might have 20 people parked outside the cost cap doing sailing or push bikes, but they can quite easily drag them back in to hit a problem and then send them away again. So when you’ve got that level of extra capacity, they’ve got a huge advantage. Delaying the rules for them is great, because they know all the small teams are not going to be able to cope.”

As for the impact on F1 teams, Fry admitted: “It is a little bit challenging for us. The sooner for us to know (the changes), the better really, because if it is going to change, we are going to tear up what we are going to do already.

“I am sure every team is running some number of weeks in the wind tunnel for next year’s car concept anyway, we certainly are. But how much of that work we’ve actually done is going to get changed with a rule change?”

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Whilst Mercedes will certainly consider this a win for them on a personal front given the issues Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have had to deal with so far, Toto Wolff is keenly aware that it might change the dynamic between both drivers, as their common enemy at the moment is the car itself, not their own career paths.

Fry continued: “I think the biggest opponent for George and Lewis was the car, not the team-mate or other drivers. And that was certainly advantageous in some respects. They used different solutions and set-ups, even a lot on some occasions, with the aim of exchanging impressions and useful information to come out of the situation we experienced.

“When the objectives become races and championships, I will be able to tell you whether the respect I see today between the two will prove to be a predominant factor.

“When playing for the highest stakes I think it’s natural to have some tension, but if people fundamentally respect and esteem each other then it will never go too far,” concluded Fry.

Mercedes and both drivers will certainly be hoping to go further in 2023 now these changes are in place starting at Round 14, the 2022 Belgian Grand Prix at the end of the month