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Formula 1 Spanish GP

F1 teams report porpoising return in Barcelona, expected to be track-specific

Formula 1 teams appear set to battle against the porpoising phenomenon again during the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix weekend after drivers reported the return of bouncing in FP1 in Barcelona.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

The porpoising sensation that many thought had been left in the 1980s returned to the series during the early part of 2022 upon the rejig of the regulations that heralded the return of ground effect.

Porpoising occurs when, the faster a car travels, the more the air passing over pushes it closer to the track. But when it begins to touch the surface, the underfloor airflow stalls to slash downforce levels. As the air repeatedly attaches and detaches in these moments, it causes the car to hop violently.

In response to porpoising dogging the early part of the last season, the FIA began monitoring the levels of movement and for 2023, imposed a 15mm rise in the height of the floor edge in a bid to eliminate porpoising for good since the extreme oscillations pose a threat to the drivers’ health.

But during first practice in Barcelona, McLaren driver Lando Norris plus MercedesGeorge Russell and pace-setting Red Bull team-mates Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez reported that their cars were bouncing again.

All four racers noted it occurring on the entry phase to the last corner, where speeds have markedly increased for 2023 following the removal of the final chicane.

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella reckoned the return of porpoising was a track-specific problem since multiple outfits had been affected.

The Italian reckoned that Mercedes and Red Bull could have to concede some peak performance in order to dial out the bouncing.

He said: “If we were alone here, I would say that’s porposing. We know you can have it in some places.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“But the fact that we heard the same coming from Red Bull, I think highlights that it could be a track-specific element that all teams might have to deal with.

“Because I thought our understanding is that Red Bull was a little bit more robust in terms of coping with porpoising.

“So, it could be a track feature, a challenge that I would say certainly we have to deal with.

“We understand Mercedes and Red Bull have to deal with based on their comments.

“It could be a performance limitation because to deal with that, you need to make some adjustments that might cost us some performance somewhere else.”

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