The word porpoising returned back to the world of F1 during the start of the 2022 championship. The FIA introduced new regulations ahead of the season. This resulted in the car being built to generate more downforce from the ground effect. However, the new aerodynamic design of the new generation cars also led to a series of problems. One of them has been a major issue for the Mercedes racing team. The Silver Arrows and several other teams encountered the violent bouncing of the car due to the sudden changes in the downforce called porpoising. Other teams like Ferrari and Red Bull countered porpoising with minor tweaks. But Mercedes have struggled to stop the bouncing with their W13. As a result, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have not been able to win a single race for their team so far.
Mercedes finally found a way to control the porpoising in Barcelona. And they emerged as one of the fastest teams during the Spanish GP. It seemed like a turning point for the Silver Arrows as Toto Wolff claimed Hamilton would have won the race if not for the first-lap puncture. But unfortunately, things when downhill again during the racing weekend in Monaco and even worsened in Baku. Several other teams also had a painful run on the bumpy track in Baku. But Hamilton and Russell suffered extreme discomfort. Hamilton found it hard to even get out of the car after the race. And he was seen holding his back while walking.
Russell Demands For A Rule Change To Avoid Major Incident
Both the Mercedes drivers are concerned about their well-being if the bouncing continues ahead in the season. Hamilton and Russell have spoken openly on numerous occasions about how painful and risky it is to be inside an unstable car. Russell complained about back and chest pain in Imola. He insisted that it was unsustainable for the drivers to bear such pain at this level. His concerns worsened in Baku, where the teams who were immune to bouncing also struggled to drive without discomfort.
George Russell was resolute that the situation needed to be changed. And this is only possible with an amendment in the rules cycle. Describing it as a recipe for disaster, Russell felt that it was only a matter of time before a major incident happened. The Briton stated that it was hard for the drivers to drive the car straight over the bumps. He added that it was visible on the tarmac how close the cars were running to the ground, especially around the last two corners at 300 km per hour and bottoming out.
Other drivers like Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly joked that the drivers would have to walk with sticks by the time they turned 30 as a result of porpoising. Thus, there is a clear wave developing which could no longer be ignored by the FIA. The governing body is open to a rule change discussion with the drivers. However, several teams which have countered porpoising think that a rule change could cause Mercedes to get back to the front without making real efforts. Red Bull’s Christian Horner claimed that Russell was just acting as an instrument for his struggling team.
Will Mercedes Succeed In Pulling Off A Regulation Change?
While Russell has been vocal about the porpoising through the season, Mercedes have not made a real effort just yet to use their influence and force a rule change. The Silver Arrows have won the constructors’ championship eight times since 2014. However, they have not been able to fight at the front, ending their domination this season. At the same time, the discomfort faced by Hamilton and Russell is somewhat the team’s own making. While Mercedes have struggled to counter bouncing, other teams have effectively solved the issue. Ferrari minimized the bouncing effect on their performance as the team has won races while bouncing violently.
At the same time, the rule change at this time in the championship will leave the teams who countered porpoising unrewarded. Thus, if Mercedes pushes for a rule change, they might seem to have gotten a shortcut to the front. But, the porpoising is also a drivers’ welfare issue. Therefore the FIA will need to intervene at some point of time during this season or the next to protect the drivers from their own teams. Moreover, the back-to-back races in Baku and Montreal will not make it any better for the drivers who will be forced to drive through the bumpiness again in Montreal. Lewis and George will have another tough weekend at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Still, the team hopes their Barcelona performance will return during the racing weekend at Hamilton’s home in Silverstone.