Thousands of simulations have been run by teams to perfect their 2022 designs and get an idea of how their cars would perform on track. Yet after one day of testing, they’ve already encountered an unlikely problem – porpoising.
These latest cars might have added roughly the same weight as an average dolphin since 2008, but we promise this issue isn’t on porpoise! Terrible pun there, sorry.
But what is porpoising in F1 and how have teams dealt with it during testing?
WHAT IS PORPOISING?
It’s commonly seen on cars using ground effect aerodynamics, as the speed and downforce sucks the car downwards towards the track.
As the car reaches its maximum speed, the ride height (the height between the bottom of the car and the track surface) decreases. This can cause the airflow to separate and reduce downforce.
Consequently, this causes a bouncing effect known as porpoising. The loss in pressure causes the ride height to increase and so the car regains downforce. The ride height then reduces again, creating a cycle of rocking back and forth, like a porpoise diving in and out of the sea. The name makes more sense now, doesn’t it.
On high-speed straights, the bouncing can heavily damage the floor and make the chassis unstable, whilst also impacting the car’s ability to brake.
The vibrations also make it difficult for the drivers to see, something which is already an issue given their limited visibility in the new cars. In the past, some drivers have even complained of feeling seasick behind the wheel because of how violent it can be.
FINDING IT OUT IN TESTING
Despite their simulations, teams didn’t seem to anticipate this issue and none of them seem to be immune to it. Teams likely weren’t able to predict it because you can hardly have a bouncing car in the windtunnel or it would do some serious damage to the belts in the windtunnel!
They’ve been impacted to different degrees, with floor changes up and down the grid.
Mercedes might be in a spot of bother, as one eyewitness told The Race that they reckon they were one of the worst sufferers on day one.
Alfa Romeo and Haas look to be the two teams most affected, with Valtteri Bottas, Robert Kubica, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin clocking in 76 laps between them.
Meanwhile, the other eight teams all hit above the 100 lap mark and in total, over 1100 laps were completed during the first day of testing.
Unfortunately for teams, porpoising is one of those problems that they can never accurately predict on their sims. Their windtunnel models can’t experience that downforce as they can’t be run on a moving belt.
Well unless you want parts of the car flying everywhere.
HOW DO TEAMS SOLVE IT?
Fortunately, this isn’t a new problem for teams and it’s not the end of the world. With the floor providing more downforce under the new regulations, engineers will try to keep the downforce as constant as possible.
They can do this by angling the front wing or using stiffer springs. F1’s bosses could also compromise and allow the mass damper, which was famously banned after Renault’s 2005 success, to return or tweak other regulations. This part, also called an inerter, helps reduce vibrations in the car.
DRS is also proving to be handy for more than just overtakes. Most teams have reported it alleviates some of the problem when open because this reduces downforce and raises the rear’s ride height.
Guess we’ll have to wait and see if they can solve their issues soon!
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