If you’re a fan of Formula 1 and you’ve been following pre-season testing in Barcelona, you might have heard the term ‘porpoising’ thrown about quite a bit.
It’s named after the up and down motion a porpoise makes – which is an aquatic marine mammal similar in appearance to a dolphin, but actually more closely related to narwhals and beluga whales.
The 2022 cars have been seen bouncing up and down, sometimes quite violently (check the below video). This is a result of the new technical regulations and seems to have caught the teams off guard. It almost appears as if they’re running over invisible speed bumps.
It’s caused by the switch to ground effect downforce generation. When the floor generates downforce, it sucks the car closer to the track, thus reducing the ride height. The lower the car gets, the quicker the air passing the car is accelerated and that in turn creates even more downforce.
At a certain point, the floor will stall and suddenly release pressure, causing the car to rise. This is happening repeatedly and in quick succession, causing the bouncing, or ‘porpoising’ motion seen on Wednesday and Thursday.
Further complicating the matter is the larger Pirelli tyres. The smaller sidewall doesn’t provide the same amount of cushioning and teams are also running simpler suspension setups to counteract this, both of which are contributing to the problem.
It’s an issue none of the teams predicted nor experienced in the simulator, and has therefore caught them somewhat off guard. Yet it was an issue way back in the 70s/80s when ground effect floors were commonplace in F1.
F1 engineers will be working frantically to try and eradicate this issue as quickly as possible.