The Formula 1 teams in Great Britain and Austria can prepare again for an FIA measure on the subject of porpoising, which is to come into force in France. From the Le Castellet race onwards, the FIA will measure what they officially call aerodynamic oscillations. Cars that are above a certain value could theoretically be excluded.
And at the heart of FIA action is a metric in the form of a complex equation that looks like a Steven Hawking or Albert Einstein invention that teams now need to understand and comply with.
The crackdown on porpoising was first announced in a technical guide issued by Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA’s chief technical officer, ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix – although not everyone was happy about the timing.
Following discussions with the teams, in particular with all technical directors, at a recent meeting of the FIA’s Technical Advisory Committee, this directive has now been amended.
An updated draft was distributed to teams on Thursday. It lacked any reference to the extra underbody braces that were so controversial in Canada.
As this is a draft, Tombazis is open to feedback from teams until July 12th. However, he stresses that the content is unlikely to change and teams will need to prepare for it to come into effect for France.
Security as a killer argument
In the directive, Tombazis reiterated what he said in the earlier version, namely that safety is the most important consideration – and that the FIA can therefore introduce rule changes.
“It is becoming increasingly clear from driver comments that excessive aerodynamic vibration and/or vehicle bottoming can result in severe pain, headache or loss of concentration, which in turn can lead to a high-speed crash,” he writes.
“This can also affect the controllability of the car, thereby increasing the risk of an accident. The FIA has therefore concluded that cars with excessive oscillations or a high level of bottoming out can be considered a ‘dangerous design’, the term ‘design’ This also includes aspects such as the aerodynamic configuration of the car or its mechanical set-up.”
He emphasizes that according to both the technical regulations of Formula 1 and the international sports code, “the stewards can disqualify a vehicle whose construction is considered dangerous”.
He then adds: “While in the future the FIA will consider measures to reduce the cars’ propensity for such aerodynamic oscillations, in the short term the FIA sees it as the responsibility of teams to ensure that their cars remain stable at all times during a competition are safe.”
Stricter interpretation of the rules on the underbody
Two measures are taken to solve this problem. Firstly, Article 3.15.8.a of the Technical Regulations, which relates to the rigidity of the planks and the wear of the skids, will be interpreted more strictly.
Some teams weren’t pleased with the fact that competitors’ cars could land so hard this year and still get FIA post-race approval, and that some teams may have abused the deflection limits.
Indeed, Tombazis suggests that some teams may have exploited the rules, noting that “we consider significant deformations beyond those accepted under Article 3.15.8.a to be elaborate to achieve a significantly lower ride height and hence to gain an indirect aerodynamic advantage.”
How the FIA will measure wear and deflection in the future is set out in great detail, including a draft of planned changes to the wording of the rules – changes which still require approval by the World Motor Sport Council before they can be applied in France.
By AOM, AOMLIM and AOMMEAN
More controversial is the second part of the measures, namely the introduction of an aerodynamic oscillation metric (AOM).
After examining the cars in Canada, the FIA came up with an equation for teams to follow, which includes parameters such as the length of track used in the calculation, time and vertical acceleration.
Key to this is the standard FIA external accelerometer, mounted near each car’s center of gravity and communicating via the Accident Data Recorder (ADR).
The signal is used “to calculate the metric (AOM), which is a representation of the energy associated with large vertical accelerations and is expressed in J/kg/100km”.
The accelerometer provides the FIA with real-time data on each car’s vertical acceleration, which in turn is compared to the FIA-mandated limit known as the AOMLIM.
Average value for “real” racing laps
This value was initially set at ten J/kg/100km and may be revised “when more data becomes available or when driver feedback indicates that this value is insufficient”.
In a sprint or race, the average value of the AOM (or AOMMEAN) is calculated for each vehicle over “all allowable laps”.
When calculating this average, only those laps considered by the FIA to be real racing laps are taken into account – meaning no in or out laps, the first two laps after the start or a restart, driving behind a safety car or the VSC or laps on wet or intermediate tires.
It clarifies that teams face disqualification if they exceed the FIA prescribed limit: “Any car whose AOMMEAN exceeds the prescribed AOMLIM will be reported to the stewards with a recommendation to disqualify it from the sprint or race results. “
Three Jokers 2022
Only in 2022, however, will the teams still have three “jokers” available. They are allowed to exceed the limit by less than 20 percent in three races without being reported, giving them extra leeway to keep their cars within the limits.
Tombazis acknowledges that this initiative is still in its infancy and that there is still a lot to learn: “In this first implementation of the AOM, the FIA recognizes that they are primarily tackling the touchdown problem, not the pure problem aerodynamic vibrations,” he notes.
“Further analysis needs to be done to implement additional conditions that capture aerodynamic vibrations, provided of course that they are proven to cause driver discomfort and safety issues.”
“We emphasize that we assume that driving Formula 1 cars is a physical effort and that we are not aiming for a ‘smooth set-up’.”
More sensors planned
Tombazis confirms that the FIA is considering introducing more sensors to get a more accurate measurement of the vibrations and calculation of the AOM.
It also intends to monitor sensors on drivers, such as in-ear accelerometers, as well as observing facial camera images, although these are for information only and will have no regulatory implications.
And how does it look in the longer term? The FIA hopes to introduce rule changes for 2023 that will reduce vibration, with a reduction in downforce also on the agenda.
Tombazis notes: “Our goal for 2023 remains to make changes that reduce the cars’ propensity for aerodynamic vibrations. In due course, teams will be encouraged to support these evaluations in CFD by making a number of modifications to their car take action and report their findings to the FIA.”
Plank soon no longer made of wood?
In addition, the FIA intends to re-examine plank wear for 2023 and beyond: “The restrictions in relation to the planks described above aim to create a level playing field for all participants, but it remains desirable to ensure controlled and fair compliance with the regulations for the underside of the car,” writes Tombazis.
“Some participants have suggested a concept where part of the plank could be made of a compliant material, such as rubber. We confirm that we are very open to these suggestions and will seek consensus among teams for such a measure. “
As previously mentioned, the teams have the Silverstone and Red Bull Ring races to understand the FIA metric, measure how their own cars compare against it and count on compliance with the rules in Paul Ricard to prepare.
And provided that the revised wording relating to the planks is approved by the World Council, they will also have to meet these requirements. It remains to be seen if and how the changes will affect ranking – and if all teams are able to fulfill them.