The middle phase of the 2022 campaign was dominated by the controversy over porpoising, and the impact of a technical directive from the FIA to try to help address the matter.
As well as imposing an aerodynamic oscillation metric to limit the bouncing, the FIA also tightened up checks on flexible floors amid suspicions that teams had been using some tricks to run closer to the ground.
These even went as far as suspicions of teams fitting disappearing skid blocks which were manufactured in a way to move up into the car when hitting the ground so they didn’t wear down. This behaviour ensured they passed post-race measurement checks.
Reflecting on the season and the porpoising issue, the FIA’s single seater technical director Nikolas Tombazis said he was confident that teams never went as far as deliberately trying to get around the regulations.
However, he says moves to tighten up the floor rules, and change the measurements of the skid blocks, were more aimed at closing up potential loopholes that could be exploited.
“Teams clearly always tend to work on the edge of the regulations, and we didn’t think anybody was cheating back then,” he said, when asked by Motorsport.com about how far he reckoned teams had gone amid the skid block suspicions.
“But the way the regulations were written permitted a bit of trickery, let’s say, that was unintended. That’s why we clarified the regulations by a technical directive and put some changes in the regulations.
“There’s two areas of the regulations where we can act unilaterally without F1 Commission approval. The one is to do with stiffness, Article 3.15, and the other one is to do with safety. That gave us the necessary ability to act on that front.”
Photo by: Giorgio Piola
The porpoising issue became incredibly political as those teams not suffering from the phenomenon argued that it was unnecessary of the FIA to get involved and change all the cars.
There was also the threat of a full-scale revolt after the FIA threatened to raise the floor edges by 25mm for next year. In the end, a compromise deal was reached that will see them lifted by just 15mm.
Tombazis admitted that it is not always easy dealing with competitive teams who are empowered by vested interests.
“It’s normally a predicament, because in Formula 1, almost everything is presumed to be benefitting somebody more than somebody else, because ultimately somebody has to win and somebody will not win,” he said.
“So with the exception of some things like safety, where generally speaking most people tend to agree, there’s huge difficulty in getting people to agree on almost anything else. And I know that, because I’ve been on the other side of the fence.
“It’s so intense for them that they always forget very quickly things they’ve benefitted from occasionally, and always remember the ones that have penalised them.
“We try to be as even-handed as we can, and we definitely don’t look at benefitting one more than the other or anything like that. But inevitably, the psychology of being in a competition is such that it makes you think always that somebody is out to get you.”
Tombazis added that he was mostly happy with how the FIA implemented the 2022 regulations, although suggests that he wished the governing body had clamped down more on floor edge designs.
“I probably would have been a bit stricter with the floor edges,” he said. “The rest, I thought was not so bad.”