The FIA has been confronted with a significant backlash from six F1 teams because of the floor changes that have been announced for the 2023 season to assist in porpoising.
In attempts to limit bouncing after multiple driver complaints, the FIA have intervened on safety grounds, and they’ve recently unravelled a set of measures to address the issue.
The aerodynamic Oscillation Metric will be measured – and cars that aren’t within the limit could be withdrawn from races. In addition, a crackdown on flexi floors will untangle from the Belgium Grand Prix and revamp the technical regulations that will be implemented in 2023.
The single-seater technical boss at the FIA, Nikolas Tombazis, became the first person to highlight the aforementioned issues. However, as these problems arose in unison with the Canadian GP, a looming sense of suspicion naturally appeared.
During a technical advisory committee meeting, teams and all of the technical directors discussed the matters at hand. An official technical directive was sent out, as Tombazis highlighted what he’d previously mentioned from the onset.
“It has become increasingly apparent from driver comments that excessive aerodynamic oscillations and car grounding can lead to severe pain, headaches, or loss of concentration, with the potential to cause a high-speed accident,” Tombazis said.
He continued: “They may also reduce the car’s controllability, thus increasing the chance of an accident. The FIA has therefore concluded that cars with excessive oscillations or high levels of grounding may be deemed to be of a ‘dangerous construction,’ the term ‘construction’ here extending to cover matters such as the aerodynamic configuration of the car or its mechanical set-up.”
Tombazis highlights that Formula 1 technical regulations and the international sporting code will allow “the stewards to disqualify a vehicle whose construction is deemed dangerous.”
He explains: “While in the future the FIA will consider implementing measures that will reduce the propensity of cars to exhibit such aerodynamic oscillations, in the short term, the FIA considers it the responsibility of the teams to ensure that their cars are safe at all times during a competition.”
After the Austrian GP and following the TAC meeting, the FIA declared it would introduce a 25mm raise to the floor edges, a raise to the underfloor diffuser throat, stricter lateral floor deflection tests, and more prominent use of sensors to measure bouncing.
Teams have yet to receive the complete details from the FIA, but it’s expected to reveal the specific measurements and regulations that will be implemented as of 2023.
Tombazis explained it’s still early for any changes to be set in stone, and there’s still a lot to learn.
“In this first implementation of the AOM, the FIA recognizes that it primarily addresses the issue of grounding, but not the issue of pure aerodynamic oscillations,” he writes.
“More analysis needs to be carried out to best implement additional terms that will capture aerodynamic oscillations, provided they are proven to cause driver discomfort and safety issues.
“We stress that we expect the driving of F1 cars to be physical exercise and that we are not aiming for what could be considered a ‘smooth set-up.
“It remains our objective to implement changes for 2023, which will inherently reduce the propensity of the cars to exhibit aerodynamic oscillations.
“In due course, teams will be asked to support these evaluations in CFD by performing a range of modifications on their car and reporting back to the FIA their results.”
To add, the FIA will inspect the plank wear for 2023 and beyond.
“The plank-related restrictions outlined above aim to provide a level playing field between all the competitors, but it remains desirable to introduce a controlled and fair compliance for the bottom of the car,” Tombazis wrote.
“Certain competitors have proposed a concept whereby part of the plank could be constructed from standard-compliant material, e.g., rubber.
“We confirm that we remain very open to these proposals and will seek consensus amongst the teams for such a measure.”
However, this set of measures has received a backlash from the teams who’re displeased with the costly changes – which they believe are redundant with the porpoising issue that’s seemed to be less of a problem in recent races.
Formula 1 Teams vs. The FIA
Ferrari, Red Bull, Alfa Romeo, Haas, and Williams – are the teams pursuing alternative solutions, and some have questioned if the FIA genuinely believe that driver safety is their true intention.
The sport’s governance is structured so that issues around safety give the FIA the go-ahead to alter the rules without any team support.
2022 Constructors Championship – Winner Betting Odds
Red Bull -400
You’ll notice that Mercedes aren’t one of the teams lobbying against the FIA decision. Although most online sportsbooks give Mercedes a 5% probability (+1600 odds) of winning the 2022 team Constructors’ Championship, teams have become fearful that the rule changes would heavily assist them next year.
The likelihood of Mercedes stealing this year’s championship from Red Bull or Ferrari is improbable – as suggested by the above sportsbook betting odds – but teams have become concerned that the FIA altercations for this season and 2023 are being formed to benefit the German car manufacturer.
Concerns surrounding the fact that Mercedes made exaggerated complaints to the FIA also backed this conspiracy up concerning the porpoising problems. Porpoising problems that the Mercedes team has notably struggled with.
An unnamed F1 team boss stated: “The changes are so extreme for 2023 because Mercedes claim that they have found 40% more downforce for next year, so they have urged the FIA to act. If Mercedes have genuinely done that, then you may as well hand them the world championship now.”
The FIA, however, is sure that its actions represent the safety of new-gen cars.
The FIA released a statement regarding the matter: “It is the responsibility and the prerogative of the FIA to intervene in safety matters, and the reason the regulations allow such measures to be taken is precisely to allow decisions to be taken without being influenced by the competitive position each team may find themselves in.”
Teams are already campaigning against the FIA president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, claiming the rule changes aren’t assisting driver safety and shouldn’t be allowed.
Rumours have circulated that eight teams could become involved in the backlash – this would transform the argument to favour the teams as it would become a ‘super majority’ rule – and therefore, the FIA would be required to compromise against their originally planned, floor-raising, extremism.