The complex equation behind F1's porpoising clampdown

Formula 1 teams will use the British and Austrian GP weekends to prepare for an FIA clampdown on porpoising and grounding that will be implemented at the French GP.

The complex equation behind F1's porpoising clampdown
Listen to this article

From the Paul Ricard event, the FIA will be measuring what it officially calls aerodynamic oscillations – and cars that do not comply will potentially face exclusion from races.

And at the heart of the FIA's clampdown is a metric in the form of a complex equation that looks like something written by Stephen Hawking or Albert Einstein, and which teams will now have to understand and comply with.

The porpoising clampdown was first signalled in a technical directive issued by FIA single-seater technical boss Nikolas Tombazis on the eve of the Canadian GP, amid some controversy about the timing.

Following discussions with the teams, notably with all the technical directors at a recent FIA technical advisory committee meeting, that TD has now been superseded.

An updated version was issued to teams in draft form on Thursday, and it was missing any reference to the extra floor stays that became such a contentious issue in Canada.

The significance of it being a draft version is that Tombazis remains open to receiving feedback from the teams by July 12th – but he stresses that the substance of it is unlikely to change, and thus teams have to prepare for it to come into force for France.

George Russell, Mercedes W13, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, in the pit lane

George Russell, Mercedes W13, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, in the pit lane

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

In the TD, Tombazis reiterated what he said in the earlier version, that safety is the key consideration of the exercise - and that allows the FIA to introduce rule changes.

"It has become increasingly apparent from driver comments that excessive aerodynamic oscillations and/or car grounding can lead to severe pain, headaches, or loss of concentration, with the potential to cause a high-speed accident," he writes.

"They may also reduce the controllability of the car, thus increasing the chance of an accident. The FIA has therefore concluded that cars with excessive oscillations or high levels of grounding may be deemed to be of a 'dangerous construction', the term 'construction' here extending to cover matters such as the aerodynamic configuration of the car, or its mechanical set-up."

He stresses that under both the F1 technical regulations and the international sporting code "the stewards may disqualify a vehicle whose construction is deemed to be dangerous."

He then adds: "While in the future the FIA will consider implementing measures that will reduce the propensity of cars to exhibit such aerodynamic oscillations, in the short term, the FIA considers it the responsibility of the teams to ensure that their cars are safe at all times during a competition."

Two measures are being adopted to address the issue. Firstly there will be a stricter interpretation of Article 3.15.8.a of the technical regulations, which relates to plank stiffness and skid wear.

Some teams have been sceptical about how the cars of rivals have been bottoming so much this year and yet still meeting FIA approval post-race, and that some teams may have taken advantage of flexing limits.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, George Russell, Mercedes W13, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, George Russell, Mercedes W13, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Indeed Tombazis suggests that some teams may have been gaming the rules, noting that "we consider significant deformations over and above those accepted under Article 3.15.8.a … to be contrived to achieve significantly lower ride heights, and hence an indirect aerodynamic gain."

How the FIA will henceforth measure wear and flexing is outlined in great detail, including a draft of planned changes to the wording of the rules – changes that remain subject to approval by the World Motor Sport Council before can be applied in France.

More contentious is the second part of the clampdown, which is the creation of an aerodynamic oscillation metric, or AOM.

After studying the cars in Canada, the FIA has come up with the equation that the teams now have to comply with, and which involves parameters such as the length of track used in the calculation, time and the vertical acceleration.

The key to it is the standard FIA external accelerometer that is fitted close to the centre of gravity of each car, and which communicates via the accident data recorder, or ADR.

Its signal will be used "to calculate the metric (AOM), which is a representation of the energy associated with instances of large vertical acceleration and is expressed in J/kg/100km."

The accelerometer will provide the FIA will real time data on the vertical acceleration for each car, and this will in turn be compared with the limit as prescribed by the FIA, which will be known as AOMLIM.

This has been set initially as 10 J/kg/100km, and it may be revised "as more data becomes available, or if driver feedback suggests it is not enough."

In a sprint or race the average value of the AOM (or AOMMEAN) for each car will be calculated over "all the eligible laps."

Only what are considered to be Pukka racing laps by the FIA will be taken into account in order to create this average, so it won't include in or out laps, the first two laps after the start or a restart, any running behind a safety car or under the VSC, or any laps run on wet or intermediate tyres.

It's made clear that teams face exclusion if they exceed the mandated FIA limit: "Any car whose AOMMEAN exceeds the stipulated AOMLIM will be reported to the stewards with the recommendation that they be excluded from the results of the sprint or race."

Aerodynamic Oscillation Metric

Aerodynamic Oscillation Metric

Photo by: Uncredited

However, in 2022 only teams have three "jokers" to play – they are allowed to exceed the limit by less than 20% at three races without being reported, giving them some extra leeway to get their cars to operate within the limits.

Tombazis conceded that it's still early days for this initiative, and that there is still much to learn.

"In this first implementation of the AOM, the FIA recognises that it primarily addresses the issue of grounding, but not the issue of pure aerodynamic oscillations," he notes.

"More analysis needs to be carried out in order to best implement additional terms that will capture aerodynamic oscillations, provided of course they are proven to cause driver discomfort and safety issues.

"We stress that we expect the driving of F1 cars to be a physical exercise and that we are not aiming for what could be considered to be a 'smooth setup'."

Tombazis confirms that the FIA is considering the introduction of further sensors in order to get more accurate measurement of oscillations and calculation of the AOM.

It also intends to monitor sensors on drivers, such as in-ear accelerometers, as well as observing face camera images, although those will be for info only and won't have a regulatory impact.

So what of the longer term? The FIA hopes to make rule changes for 2023 that will reduce oscillations, with a downforce reduction understood to be on the agenda.

Tombazis notes: "It remains our objective to implement changes for 2023 which will inherently reduce the propensity of the cars to exhibit aerodynamic oscillations.

In due course, teams will be asked to support these evaluations in CFD by performing a range of modifications on their car, and reporting back to the FIA their results."

In addition, the FIA intends to take another look at plank wear for 2023 and beyond.

"The plank-related restrictions outlined above aim to provide a level playing field between all the competitors, but it remains desirable to introduce a controlled and fair compliance for the bottom of the car," Tombazis writes.

"Certain competitors have proposed a concept whereby part of the plank could be constructed from a compliant standard material, e.g. rubber.

"We confirm that we remain very open to these proposals and will seek consensus amongst the teams for such a measure."

As noted, teams have the Silverstone and Red Bull Ring races to understand the FIA metric, measure how their own cars compare to it, and prepare to comply with the rules at Paul Ricard.

And assuming that the revised wording relating to planks is approved by the WMSC, they will have to comply with those requirements as well. It remains to be seen if and how any changes impact the competitive order - and indeed if all the teams are able to comply.

Read Also:
shares
comments

Related video

British GP practice as it happened
Previous article

British GP practice as it happened

Next article

British GP: Sainz leads dry FP2 from Hamilton, Norris

British GP: Sainz leads dry FP2 from Hamilton, Norris
The returning fan car revolution that could suit F1 Prime

The returning fan car revolution that could suit F1

Gordon Murray's Brabham BT46B 'fan car' was Formula 1 engineering at perhaps its most outlandish. Now fan technology has been successfully utilised on the McMurtry Speirling at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, could it be adopted by grand prix racing once again?

Hamilton's first experience of turning silver into gold Prime

Hamilton's first experience of turning silver into gold

The seven-time F1 champion has been lumbered with a duff car before the 2022 Mercedes. Back in 2009, McLaren’s alchemists transformed the disastrous MP4-24. And now it’s happening again at his current team

Formula 1
Aug 11, 2022
Why few would blame Leclerc if he leaves Ferrari in future Prime

Why few would blame Leclerc if he leaves Ferrari in future

OPINION: Ferrari's numerous strategy blunders, as well as some of his own mistakes, have cost Charles Leclerc dearly in the 2022 Formula 1 title battle in the first half of the season. Though he is locked into a deal with Ferrari, few could blame Leclerc if he ultimately wanted to look elsewhere - just as Lewis Hamilton did with McLaren 10 years prior.

Formula 1
Aug 9, 2022
The other McLaren exile hoping to follow Perez's path to a top F1 seat Prime

The other McLaren exile hoping to follow Perez's path to a top F1 seat

After being ditched by McLaren earlier in his F1 career Sergio Perez fought his way back into a seat with a leading team. BEN EDWARDS thinks the same could be happening to another member of the current grid

Formula 1
Aug 8, 2022
How studying Schumacher helped make Coulthard a McLaren F1 mainstay Prime

How studying Schumacher helped make Coulthard a McLaren F1 mainstay

Winner of 13 grands prix including Monaco and survivor of a life-changing plane crash, David Coulthard could be forgiven for having eased into a quiet retirement – but, as MARK GALLAGHER explains, in fact he’s busier than ever, running an award-winning media company and championing diversity in motor racing. Not bad for someone who, by his own admission, wasn’t quite the fastest driver of his generation…

Formula 1
Aug 7, 2022
Could F1 move to a future beyond carbon fibre? Prime

Could F1 move to a future beyond carbon fibre?

Formula 1 has ambitious goals for improving its carbon footprint, but could this include banishing its favoured composite material? Pat Symonds considers the alternatives to carbon fibre and what use, if any, those materials have in a Formula 1 setting

Formula 1
Aug 6, 2022
The traits that fuelled Alonso's unexpected Aston Martin F1 move Prime

The traits that fuelled Alonso's unexpected Aston Martin F1 move

Fernando Alonso’s bombshell switch to Aston Martin sent shockwaves through Formula 1, not least at Alpine that finds itself tangled in a contract standoff with Oscar Piastri. Not shy of a bold career move and with a CV punctuated by them, there were numerous hints that trouble was brewing.

Formula 1
Aug 4, 2022
The elements Ferrari must resolve to first save face, then win championships Prime

The elements Ferrari must resolve to first save face, then win championships

OPINION: Ferrari's Formula 1 title hopes look all but over after another strategic blunder in last week's Hungarian Grand Prix denied Charles Leclerc the chance to fight for victory, while handing it to chief rival Max Verstappen. The Scuderia now faces intense scrutiny over what it must now do to finally become a genuine factor in championship battles

Formula 1
Aug 3, 2022