The Formula 1 drivers who drive a car that suffers a lot from porpoising, bouncing at a higher speed, want an intervention from the FIA to make driving a little more comfortable. For the time being, for example, the Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are still crying out in the desert. They seem to be against it.
The competitive royal class is full of politics, no team misses an opportunity to take advantage of something or hinder a competitor. Mercedes is having a hard time this season, partly due to the many bounces. If the FIA were to make a rule change to remedy this phenomenon, the other teams would immediately lie in front of it.
“We have to wait until an accident happens,” Russell complained after the game on Saturday. The Briton is one of the most vocal drivers on porpoising, and the first to point out its health implications. The problem for Russell (and his teammate Hamilton) is only: Mercedes can solve it, but then the car will be even slower.
The bouncing is caused by the fact that current cars hang so low above the asphalt. This is necessary to keep the aerodynamic floor as good as possible. The combination of this desired setting with the much stiffer springs and tires with a thinner sidewall this year ensures that porpoising occurs quickly. It is often set in motion by a bump, and there are many of those on the street circuit in Baku.
“We could set the car a little higher, then it won’t bounce, but we’re also slower,” said Hamilton on Friday after free practices. “So we just went for a low set-up, knowing it was going to hurt.”
Hamilton complained stone and bone after qualifying. The seven-time world champion’s car bounced even more than that of his teammate Russell. “I couldn’t even finish my race simulation on Friday, my back was really screwed up,” the Briton said bluntly.
Red Bull and Ferrari do not want rule change
So if it’s up to the Mercedes drivers, there will be rules that make the bouncing cars a thing of the past. But this is where politics in Formula 1 comes into play.
Red Bull hardly suffers from porpoising, and is much faster than Mercedes. That is remarkable, because the problem can apparently be solved without sacrificing speed. The Ferrari case is even stranger. That car is not much inferior to the Mercedes in terms of bounce, but is generally the fastest in the field.
Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz will join Russell and Hamilton, the Spaniard also believes that something has to change. His teammate Charles Leclerc, however, is not bothered by anything. Many drivers are fine with loosing behind the wheel, as long as the car is fast. And the drivers who are not bothered by a bounce at all – read: Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez – are of course firmly against an intervention by the FIA. “Then they put the car a little higher”, the World Cup leader was clear earlier.
“Sooner or later accidents are going to happen,” said George Russell.
Eight out of ten teams should be in favour
Even if it’s the drivers who have to endure the bounce, they have nothing to say about it. Ultimately, the decision rests with the teams. Eight out of ten stables should be in favor of an interim rule change. That’s not the case.
Red Bull has things in order, so certainly doesn’t want to change anything. Ferrari does bounce, but is fast. Not a hair on every head in Maranello thinks about a rule change, even if Sainz is complaining. And there are more teams that are fairly stable on the tarmac, such as Alfa Romeo and Williams.
So the Mercedes drivers can complain all they want, but the competition will reason that the current Constructors’ champion is mainly after a competitive advantage with a rule change. Silver arrows would be a good idea if, for example, all cars were obliged to take more ride height.
For the time being, Russell, Hamilton and Sainz will bounce on with great reluctance for a while. Fortunately, the best medicine is available, Hamilton pointed out: “Thank God I have a good physiotherapist in Angela Cullen.”