F1 – FIA anti porpoising directive: technical analysis opens up worrying scenarios

F1 2022: the press release FIA of 16 June, regarding the measures that will be adopted to mitigate the phenomenon of porpoising, has raised a predictable fuss of controversy. The noble intent to safeguard the pilots’ health made it necessary to intervene by the international federation, in the light of the “inability” of many team in remedying the dangerous vertical oscillations of the respective single-seaters.

It is not the first time that the regulator has issued directives of a technical nature in the middle of the season. Just think of the 1994 World Cup, where the all F1 were forced to open loopholes in theairscope to decrease the flow of air to the aspirated engines, after the tragic events of the grand prix of Imola.

The ferment in the paddock is at the highest level since the directive of the FIA creates a dangerous precedent. THE team (few) who have developed cars exempt (or almost) from vertical pumping, see in this provision a “lifesaver” for teams unable to solve this side effect independently. In essence, the concern of the few team virtuous lies in the fear that the goodness of one’s work will be sacrificed by “defective” projects.

Formula One Technical Analysistrue to its own mission to “explore” the technological aspects of the highest category of motorsportwill describe the reference context and the possible scope of applicability of the recent provision issued by the governance.


F1. Reference technological context – AS-IS

Currently, each single-seater houses between 150 and 300 sensors that generate millions of data every race weekend. In numerical terms, over a period of one week end 300 to 400 GB are generated in the form of data for each individual car. The following infographic lists the main sensors present on the F1 cars and the relative measured quantity.

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Main sensors present on Formula 1 single-seaters

Managing this evidence creates a huge amount of work. A demanding task that requires the most advanced technology for data collection, safe storage and external communication to the respective remote garages. Much of this information is also stored on the control unit SDR (Safety Data Recorder) to which the International Federation has normal access.

Through the analysis of stored data in the SDRthe FIA can check if the components of the single-seaters have worked in compliance with the established parameters. For several years already on the racing cars of the Formula 1 there is a sensor called an accelerometercapable of detecting lateral, frontal and verticalto which single-seaters and drivers are subject.

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Sensors on 2022 single-seaters and data volumes produced during a weekend by each single-seater.

Thanks to the accelerometer, the federal technicians and are able to monitor from the inaugural Grand Prix of Bahrain the amplitude of vertical pumping, phenomenon that during the past years it was perceived by the pilots only in the stupendous compression of the Eau Rouge at Spa-Francorchamps.

More and more frequently, in tech are illustrated talk graphs relating to the amplitude of the aerodynamic pumping of each single-seater. This is the mere graphical processing of the data detected by the accelerometer.

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Amplitude of the fluctuations due to porpoising expressed in vertical g-force

The previous representation shows the peak of the vertical acceleration suffered by the car and the driver at each lap of the track. However, i data log they contain the value of the vertical acceleration of the cars in each single point of the track.

In particular, in the previous infographic relating to Great Prize from Spainthe absence of porpoising on the Mercedes W13 in relation to the particular road surface of the historic circuit of the Montmelodevoid of roughness and hollows.


F1 2022: definition of the acceptable level of vertical oscillations

Having ascertained the existence of the necessary sensors on board the car, the next step is to define a range of vertical oscillations that can be considered acceptable to protect the health of pilots. This is the most delicate aspect as the metric that will be adopted could upset the balance of forces already defined in the first nine stages of the 2022 World Cup.

It is important to underline that the phenomenon does not occur only on long straights. For example, in the fast section between curve 12 and curve 15 of the circuit of Bakuthe only one Mercedes accused a disproportionate pumping compared to the competition. The simplest solution would be to impose a “Vertical G-force range“Similar to F1 of previous generation.

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Porpoising of the single-seaters between turns 12 and 15 of the Baku circuit

The accelerometer has been present on single-seaters for years and would not be a difficult exercise for the FIA set an interval equal to the minimum and maximum excursion of racing cars 2021. This provision would force i team to make changes to the setup of their cars, significantly damaging those who have designed “non-jumping” single-seaters, in favor of those who have not managed to solve a problem observed since the first day of pre season test to Barcelona.

However any other range set by federation would be subject to harsh criticism. Just think of the Ferrari F1-75 which, despite showing an accentuated pumping, is still the single-seater of reference in terms of pure performance on the single lap.

It is evident how the definition of an interval of G-vertical that takes into account a small fluctuation margin would create big problems a Mercedes And Ferrari. Despite the opposite performances on the track, the historic Italian team and the silver arrows coexist with the pumping since the beginning of the season.

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Monegasque Charles Leclerc (Scuderia Ferrari) in his F1-75 during qualifying for the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

The possible choice of the Federation through stringent stakes on the vertical acceleration of the vehicle, as mentioned, would involve the adoption of arrangements that would degrade the benefits deriving from the ground effect. However, the minimization of the bouncing through the imposition of absolute and transversal parameters, such as the definition of a minimum height from the ground, it would be an unpopular and unsportsmanlike choice.

A further scenario could include an increase in derogation of the budget Postal Code for the sole resolution of porpoising, to be reported promptly to the federation itself. As pointed out by Christian Hornerthis action would put the technical sectors with their backs to the wall which, after months, have not yet managed to solve the problem.

An option that is too difficult to put into practice and which in any case would be opposed by many teams, Red Bull ahead. In a sea of ​​question marks, the only certainty emerges: any provision imposed by the international federation will in any case be followed by controversy and a significant change in the balance of power on the track.


Author and graphics: Roberto Cecere – @robertofunoat

Photo: Scuderia Ferrari


The article is in Italian

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