Dictating car set-ups a "dangerous avenue" warns Horner

03/07/2022
NEWS STORY

Red Bull boss, Christian Horner believes the sport will be heading down a "dangerous avenue", should it choose to dictate car set-ups in a bid to cure the porpoising phenomenon.

The Briton was referring to the metric, announced following the events of Baku, and which will now be introduced at Paul Ricard, which will dictate the frequency and amplitude of a car's vertical movement, in other words the bouncing (porpoising) which affects some teams more than others.

In order to conform, teams would be required to adjust their ride heights accordingly, which would compromise performance, with many feeling the rule is being brought in to aid Mercedes, the team most affected by the phenomenon, while punishing those who have got it right.

"The metric that they're talking about is quite complicated," says Horner, "that's a concern about it and for what period is the measurement taken, individual incidences and all that kind of thing.

"I think when you look at it from a purist point of view it's not ideal because it seems that we're giving more and more influence to the FIA to dictate what your set-up is. At what point do they say that you have to run this rear wing or a certain ride-height or...

"It's a dangerous avenue to go down," he warned. "I understand on the grounds of safety that this is being introduced because the porpoising on a limited amount of cars is obviously at an extreme level and they're looking to have a net mechanism to control that. But I think that hopefully it's only something that will be there for this year as it's something that hopefully all the teams will be on top of, as I'm sure the cars will converge next year. But it's certainly not a precedent that we want to go down otherwise set-ups will be being dictated by FIA directives."

With FIA having identified things like the planks and trying to make sure that teams aren't flexing beyond a certain amount, Horner was asked if he feels the governing body, porpoising aside, is looking to ensure the teams aren't doing anything they're supposed to in terms of the rigidity of the underneath of the car.

"Obviously it's a key performance factor," he replied, "so you can understand why they're looking at it but of the course the difficulty is - you only look yesterday if a car runs wide at Copse, I'm sure the driver's backside is getting pretty warm with the amount of wood he's leaving on the aggressive kerbing there - so again it's something that, as the regulators, that they are closely looking at, that there's no abusive of it but again it has to be subjective."

"The proposal is much too complicated," agreed Jost Capito, "and we have to find simpler solutions that still allow the team to work and do the set-up, and still fulfil the regulations."

The Red Bull boss subsequently claimed that had the metric been in place in Baku, one team would have failed.

"For us porpoising isn't an issue anywhere near any of the other extremities," he said. "Now, what I understand from the FIA is that within their metric, from what they saw in Montreal, all teams would have been within that metric so it wouldn't change anything.

"But there was one team that was outside of that metric significantly in Azerbaijan. So, theoretically it shouldn't really change anything for us which would seem unfair if it were to suddenly have to require a redesign or to run our car in a different manner.

"But I guess that the TD is being used to bring into line the set-up of teams to ensure that there isn't too aggressive porpoising for the drivers. As I said earlier, I think things will converge. And I think that the best thing history shows in Formula 1 is, if you want convergence, if you want closer racing, leave the regulations alone and that way, this porpoising issue, this time next year won't even be a discussion."

"We don't have an issue with porpoising," agreed Capito. "We see a bit here and there, but nothing that would concern us regarding safety. I think under the regulations we have you can have a safe car and we have a safe car."

"We experienced it too early on and at the expense of ultimate performance, were able to get rid of it to a point where the drivers are comfortable," said Otmar Szafnauer, "and like Christian says we're well below the limits.

"However, if other teams are outside that, I think the FIA have a duty to look at it, understand it, measure it and then try to control it if there is a need. There might not be."

Mercedes technical director, Mike Elliot subsequently confirmed that Mercedes was outside the limit in Baku.

"Going back over a few races using that metric, Baku is one we wouldn't have passed," he admitted. "But if you look at where we were yesterday, we wouldn't have even triggered the metric.

"It is going to be interesting to see how it is applied and how it is used through the season, because none of us wants to be bouncing. We're not trying to develop into that position."

Looking ahead, he admits his great fear is if teams are unable to get below the limit dictated by the metric.

"The question becomes, if you are exceeding the metric, can you actually fix it during a race weekend?" he said. "I don't think any of us want to see cars not taking parts and cars thrown out, because they're not able to get on top of those issues.

"I think time will tell whether that metric can be done in the right way, or whether that can sort of push things in the right way without ending up damaging the show. We'll see what happens. I'm sure the FIA are conscious of it."

Echoing Toto Wolff's feeling that the bouncing issue is track specific, Elliott admits that the Hungaroring concerns him.

"Certainly the last few circuits where we have seen quite a lot of bouncing, I think it is just because the circuits are quite bumpy and with very stiff cars. I think when you look forward to say Budapest, it might be challenging for teams for the same reason.

"But at the same time, I think we're all getting on top of our issues. We're understanding those issues and developing the cars. So hopefully, we can sort of move away from that."

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Published: 03/07/2022
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