“I feel a little bit ill” – Charles Leclerc’s take on porpoising of F1 cars

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All 2022 F1 cars are experiencing extreme levels of porpoising as seen in Barcelona – Charles Leclerc shares his take

Charles Leclerc is driving Ferrari’s F1-75, a latest-generation F1 car designed to comply with F1’s new technical regulations. All teams have felt the effect of porpoising during the first pre-season test running in Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona.

It is expected to be a regular feature this year but engineers have their task cut out to reduce the effects or control it before the season opener on March 20, the Bahrain Grand Prix. The second pre-season test running is scheduled to take place in Bahrain itself.

Charles Leclerc
A dejected Charles Leclerc following his opening lap crash at 2021 Hungarian GP

Leclerc spoke to the media about his experiences during the test session with regards to the effects of porpoising. “It feels like turbulence on an aeroplane going up and down the whole straight”, he said. Referring to a video clip posted by F1 which shows the F1-75 suffering extreme levels of porpoising, Leclerc said, “I think that one of the videos F1 posted shows this phenomenon quite well and I can’t say it feels nice. It makes you a little bit ill, but it’s okay.” The 24-year old further added, “It’s still very early days for this project. So it feels like an issue that everyone has in the paddock more or less. But yeah, in this paddock all the best engineers of the world are here so I’m pretty sure that we’ll find a solution.”

What is porpoising and what role does it play in F1?

During the first pre-season test running session in Barcelona, unusual behaviour of the 2022 F1 cars have been observed. As they reach top speed, almost all the cars have been spotted bouncing up and down their suspension – a phenomenon known as porpoising. It is a term used to describe the movement of a porpoise as it travels through water. The effect of porpoising can be attributed to F1’s rule changes for 2022.

The new regulations allow teams more freedom to generate downforce from the underside of the car through the use of ground effect aerodynamics. The length of the car is treated as an upside-down aeroplane wing with the lower surface designed to generate low air pressure under the car and suck it to the track.

F1 teams are facing challenges to control the extreme effects of porpoising. It can be triggered by bumps or the car simply running too low a ride height. Once triggered, the car starts bouncing up and down before the driver hits the brakes slowing down significantly. Teams were aware it might happen but none expected it to be so regular or extreme. Most technical directors believe it can be fixed with updates that were not part of the original development plans.

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