George Russell – Current F1 regulations a recipe for disaster


Mercedes driver George Russell believes it is just a matter of time until the traits of the latest generation of Formula One cars result in a major accident.

F1 introduced new regulations this year to help cars follow each other more closely and improve the racing spectacle. In order to maximise performance from the new set of regulations, teams run their cars close to the ground with stiff suspension to improve the efficiency of the underfloor aerodynamics.

This has had a major impact on the ride of the cars, and in some cases has resulted in an aerodynamic phenomenon known as porpoising, in which the car bounces on its suspension as the airflow under the car momentarily stalls and then regains downforce.

The porpoising, also known as bouncing, can be triggered by running the car too low to the ground, but also by a bumpy track surface like the one on the streets of Baku at this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. It has been a cause for concern among several drivers since the start of the season and Russell believes it has the potential to be dangerous.

“I think it is just a matter of time before we see a major incident,” he said. “A lot of us can barely keep the car in a straight line over these bumps and we are going around the last two corners at 300km/h [in Baku] and we are bottoming out and you can visibly see on the tarmac how close the cars are running to the ground.

“It is just unnecessary with the technology we have in today’s environment, it just seems unnecessary that we are running a Formula One car at over 200 mph millimetres from the ground and it’s a recipe for disaster. I don’t really know what the future holds but I don’t think we can sustain this for three years or however long these regulations are in force for.”

Russell’s Mercedes team has struggled with porpoising more than most, which has had a knock-on effect on the performance of his car. However, he insists his view is not based on a desire to improve his competitive chances and is instead down to genuine safety concerns.

“I mean, for what it’s worth we are not as massively in favour for it [regulation change] as a team because with every race we do we are learning more and more about the car and any changes is going to limit that learning. So it’s not like we want it to change, it is clearly a safety limitation.

“The top three teams are also in the same position, Ferrari and Red Bull, well Ferrari more than Red Bull you can clearly see they are really struggling with that. Nobody is doing it for performance enhancement, it’s because of safety reasons.

“I can barely see the braking zone because I am bouncing around so much. You go through those last two corners [in Baku], you have walls all around you, and you are doing 200 mph and the car is bouncing up and down on the floor — it is not a very comfortable position to be in. As a group we need a bit of a rethink.

“It definitely feels dangerous. It just feels unnecessary. You are skating along the track and when you are hitting the ground the tyres aren’t in force with the ground so much, so it’s only a matter of time until we see something.”

F1 insists teams can counter the bouncing by running a higher ride height and has pointed out that it raised its own concerns about the issue last year before proposed changes to the regulations were blocked by the teams. It also points out that not all teams are suffering from porpoising.

If the sport’s governing body, the FIA, believes the bouncing is a genuine safety concern, it could force through changes without a majority agreement among the teams, although this currently seems unlikely.


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