By James Broughton, August 9, 2022
Formula 1 introduced sweeping new regulations for the 2022 season or rather re-introduced ground effect aerodynamics that had been banned since the 1980s. The return of ground effect aero brought with it a long forgotten phenomenon, porpoising. In layman’s terms, porpoising is otherwise simply referred to as bouncing. This bouncing is caused by an aerodynamic anomaly. It’s quite a complicated subject, so complex that it had the brightest brains in F1 dazed and confused for nearly half a season.
Mercedes F1 played a straight bat with the regulations and as a result, suffered severe bouncing. Other teams found a loophole in the regulations and developed a so-called flexi-floor that all but eliminated porpoising. With ground effect aero, substantial levels of downforce can be generated the closer the floor of the car is to the road surface.
The flexi-floor allows the wooden plank to flex and therefore allows for a lower ride height. Teams using this methodology generate more aero performance. The problem is the wooden plank attached to the bottom of the floor is only meant to flex by a specific regulatory amount.
The rumored flexi floors used by Red Bull and Ferrari were designed to deliberately over-flex, therefore increasing aero performance. This is against the FIA’s regulatory mandate specifying how much the wooden plank can flex. The FIA acted to stop this, citing driver safety caused by the effects of porpoising. The updated mandate effectively bans flexi-floors.
The FIA will monitor and measure how much the wooden planks move from the Belgium Grand Prix onwards. Unsurprisingly Ferrari and Red Bull were against the new measures. Could this spark a reversal of fortunes for Red Bull and Ferrari? Could Mercedes rise back to the top? We will know in a few weeks time.
Nevertheless, Mercedes is confident it can go forward having completely eliminated the porpoising demons from the W13. Andrew Shovlin, the Mercedes trackside engineering director, believes his team is now on an upward curve. Speaking to German media recently he said:
“Bouncing is no longer an issue at all.”
“We still have a few things in the quiver, nothing spectacular but things that will take us further.”
“We are no longer going around in circles but are now moving forward continuously. Also with the set-up.”