According to research, the FIA is faced with a rebellion by at least six Formula 1 teams who are opposed to changes to the underbody. These are to be introduced from 2023 to combat “bouncing”.
As part of the FIA’s safety intervention to curb ‘porpoising’ following the spate of driver complaints, the World Automobile Federation recently unveiled the measures it intends to implement.
In addition to enforcing metrics to measure “bouncing” and regulating flexible underbody from the Belgian Grand Prix, the FIA has also decided within the framework of the Formula 1 Commission that changes to the technical regulations are required for 2023.
This is how the FIA wants to fight “porpoising”.
Following discussions in the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) after the Austrian Grand Prix, the FIA said it would consider raising the underbody edges by 25 millimeters, raising the diffuser mouth, more rigorous testing of lateral underbody deflection and using a more accurate sensor to measure the “Bouncings” would prescribe.
Teams are currently awaiting more detailed rule proposals from the FIA, which are said to include the specific measures and regulations the governing body intends to introduce for next year.
However, the series of measures has already drawn a backlash from teams, who are unhappy with the scale of the costly changes and see them as unnecessary as the ‘porpoising’ problem seems to be better under control in recent races.
Six teams ready to contest changes
A group of six teams – reportedly including Ferrari, Red Bull, AlphaTauri, Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams – are understood to be ready to contest the changes amid questions about whether claims by the FIA that it whether it is a security problem, are legitimate or not.
It is common practice that the FIA can change the rules on safety issues without needing the support of the teams. Article 1.2.2 of the Formula 1 Technical Regulations states: “Any changes made by the FIA for safety reasons may come into effect without notice or delay.”
It is understood that the above dissatisfied teams have started lobbying FIA President Mohammed bin Sulayem to argue that the truth is that the changes to the 2023 technical rules are not a real safety issue and therefore must not be allowed .
Can you agree on a compromise solution?
Sources well acquainted with the situation have indicated that there is even support from eight teams who are in favor of a compromise solution of making the hikes less than planned. This would be enough for a so-called “supermajority” for a rule change.
It is believed that the eight teams would accept minor changes, such as raising the bottom edge by just 10mm instead of 25mm, as at this late stage in the development of the 2023 cars this would not require such a fundamental overhaul of the car’s design.
It is unclear what options teams have to defend themselves against the changes if the FIA sticks to their decision for the more extreme version and refuses to move away from it.
Ferrari veto an option?
One factor that cannot be completely ruled out is a veto by Ferrari, as the Italian team has the right under the Concorde Agreement to block certain rule changes.
While it is considered unlikely that the Ferrari veto would be able to prevent rule changes for real safety reasons; but the debate over whether or not the changes fall within this area means that the situation is not entirely clear.
Team boss: World championship titles can also be given to Mercedes
Above all, some teams fear that the scale of the rule changes introduced by the FIA will play into the hands of rival Mercedes and that the changes for both this season and 2023 are worded in a way that could benefit the German carmaker.
There are also fears that Mercedes have deliberately exaggerated the car’s ‘porpoising’ and stiffness issues, which the ‘Silver Arrows’ have still not fully addressed, forcing the FIA to do so to intervene and change the rules.
A team principal says: “The changes for 2023 are so extreme because Mercedes claims they’ve found 40 per cent more downforce for next year. So they’ve pushed the FIA into action. If Mercedes really did that, then you can see them leave the World Cup up to them.”
How the FIA explains their approach
However, the FIA insists that its measures are only intended to ensure the safety of the current generation of vehicles.
A statement from the governing body said last week: “It is the responsibility and prerogative of the FIA to intervene on safety issues and the reason the regulations allow for such action is precisely so that decisions can be taken without compromising one’s competitive position being affected, which is where every team is.”
Toto Wolff clearly: “Clearly more than a loophole”
On the sidelines of the training day in Le Castellet on Friday, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff commented on the current debate to ‘Sky’: “There was a technical guideline with which the FIA made it clear what they no longer wanted to see from Spa. And what As for next year, they’re trying to clear up any ambiguity about the underbody, specifically the plank.”
Mercedes assumes that Ferrari and Red Bull in particular clearly exceed the prescribed maximum flexibility of the underbody of two millimeters, and that with a trick on the underbody that Wolff describes as “more than a gray area”.
Therefore, the Mercedes team boss thinks a change in the middle of the season from Spa is only fair: “You will probably have to drive the car a little higher up front, but I think that the technical guideline should have been introduced three races ago when it was discovered . It’s clearly more than a loophole.”