The FIA will meet teams this week in an attempt to defuse the controversy caused by their intervention in the regulations that overshadowed the Canadian Grand Prix. F1’s governing body had attempted to address the problems with cars bouncing on track this season, amid fears for drivers’ safety, but their efforts simply caused friction across the paddock.
The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, said the FIA had to act given its responsibility for driver safety but his Red Bull counterpart, Christian Horner, has accused Mercedes of having designed a car that exacerbated the bouncing issue and that they should fix it rather than expect a regulation change.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won in Montreal, extending his lead over Sergio Pérez, who did not finish, to 46 points and over the third‑placed Charles Leclerc to 49 points. Mercedes took third and fourth with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell and the team were pleased by their improvement in performance.
The Mercedes car has been particularly affected by the porpoising and bouncing problems that are the consequence of the new regulations this season. The porpoising is a violent vertical jarring caused by gaining and then losing downforce from the ground-effect aerodynamics underneath the car. Most teams, including Mercedes, believe they have solved this now. But the bouncing of drivers in the cockpit remains for many teams. It is a factor of the cars running very stiff suspension and low ride heights required to maximise the ground effect aero.
In Monaco and Baku on bumpy tracks the bouncing was very severe and questions were raised about drivers’ safety including the risk of micro concussions and whether they were safely able to see braking zones.
On the Thursday before the Canadian GP the FIA issued a technical directive stating it was to address the matter and attempt to find a solution. It also allowed certain changes to be made in Montreal to try to alleviate it. This proved controversial with some teams objecting to what they saw as a rule change without consultation.
After a heated team principal meeting on Saturday, Wolff described political manoeuvring by some teams around the subject – which he views as a safety issue – as “pitiful” and “disingenuous”.
No satisfactory conclusion was reached so Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA’s single-seater technical director, will now meet the technical directors of the teams this week to attempt to reach a consensus of how to move forward before the next round, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
The issue remains highly charged, with Mercedes accused of having made its drivers exaggerate how uncomfortable they were in the car to hasten a rule change. Wolff, however, noted it was a widespread issue across the teams and was concerned that the opposition to dealing with it was shortsighted. “The political manoeuvring that has been going on doesn’t consider what is at the core of this topic,” he said.
“At the core of this topic is that since the beginning of the season drivers have been complaining about pain to drive these cars. Back pain, blurred vision, we’re talking about micro concussions and people giving their feedback in literally every team. This is something we just need to tackle: whatever the solution is and whatever technically can be implemented to go in that direction.
“We need to be aware that this is not about cutting a winglet that is an advantage for a team, or a double diffuser. It is that all of us team principals and teams have a responsibility to not take this lightly.”
Red Bull, who lead the drivers’ and constructors’ championships and have a car free of porpoising and most bouncing issues, are unsurprisingly reticent to accept rule changes they believe are required only because of the failings of other teams.
“The issue with Mercedes is more severe than any other car,” Horner said. “That surely is down to the team. That’s within their control to deal with that, if it’s not affecting others. We haven’t had an issue with bouncing. The problem is they’re running their car so stiff. I think their concept is the issue rather than the regulation.”