George Russell is calling for talks with Formula 1 to find a way to reduce the propensity for porpoising with the current generation of cars after a painful afternoon at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Mercedes in particular has struggled with aerodynamic bouncing for most of the year, and although upgrades brought to the Spanish Grand Prix facilitated a strong weekend for the reigning constructors’ champion in Barcelona, the porpoising has returned with a vengeance in Baku.
The problem is particularly bad in Azerbaijan, where the cars are flat out for more than 1.3 miles down the front straight, the longest single blast in the sport. The faster the cars go, the more energized the ground-effect floor becomes, sucking the cars closer to the ground until they bottom out, which causes the bouncing.
The effect is so extreme here that virtually every car was suffering during practice, despite several teams having previously thought they’d got the better of the porpoising.
Russell, who was seventh and 1.3s off the pace, has been vocal about his dislike of the bouncing generated by the current generation of cars, and he doubled down in Baku by calling for the sport to have a discussion about rule changes to stamp it out.
“It’s just that the cars are running so close to the ground,” he said. “It’s crazy out there through those high-speed corners — the car’s fully bottoming out.
“I think it’s the same for everybody and it’s really not comfortable to drive. I don’t know what the future holds for this era of cars, but I can’t see us being able to — or I don’t think it’s right — to run like this for the next four years or whatever we’ve got.
“For all of us, conversations are going to be needed as everybody is in the same boat, really.”
Russell revealed earlier in the season that the worst of Mercedes’s porpoising was giving him chest pains, and teammate Lewis Hamilton said he was feeling the effects of two hours spent bouncing around Baku.
“I’ll get by,” he said. “A bit sore but, yes, we’re hitting some serious speeds at the end here. It’s bouncing a lot.
“There are no other problems that have resurfaced; it’s the same, pretty much the same as in the last race, really. It’s mostly bouncing.”
Both Russell and Hamilton were left dispirited by the W13’s lack of performance in Azerbaijan, the bouncing notwithstanding. Russell said he didn’t expect to be able to catch Ferrari and Red Bull Racing before qualifying.
“It was a tricky day,” he said. “We weren’t as competitive as we would have liked. just have an inherently faster car than us, and we’ve done everything we can to try and catch up.
“I think , but I think if we’re totally on top of the tires, we’re definitely not going to close that gap — they’re just too far ahead. So that’s probably 50 percent of our issues; the rest is just the lack of performance we have at the moment.”
Hamilton was similarly mystified, but he was optimistic he could at least close the 0.3s gap to Russell on Saturday.
“We tried something experimental on my car and it didn’t feel that great, to be honest,” he said. “At least we tried it and got data on it, and now we’ll go through it and for tomorrow we’ll probably revert back to what we changed.
“I just can’t really tell you where 1.6 seconds or whatever it is — that’s a long way away. A lot of it’s on straights.”
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