F1 introduced new regulations this year to help cars follow each other closely and improve the racing scene. In order to maximize performance from the set of new regulations, teams are running their cars close to the ground with strong suspensions to improve the efficiency of the underfloor aerodynamics.
This had a major impact on automobile rides, and in some cases resulted from an aerodynamic phenomenon known as porpoise, in which a car bounces off its suspension as the airflow beneath the car temporarily stops and then regains downforce.
The porpoise, also known as bouncing, can be powered by running the car very low to the ground, but also through a bumpy track surface like the one on the streets of Baku at this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. It’s been a cause for concern among many drivers since the start of the season, and Russell thinks it’s potentially dangerous.
“I think it’s only a matter of time before we have a major incident,” he said. “A lot of us can barely keep the car in a straight line over these bumps as we move around the last two turns at 300 km/h. [in Baku] We’ve hit our lows and you can clearly see on the runway how close the cars are to running off the ground.
“It’s superfluous With the technology we have in today’s environment, it seems superfluous to run a Formula 1 car at 200 mph from the ground which is 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 remain in force.”
Russell Mercedes’ team suffered from hog hunting the most, which had an indirect effect on its car’s performance. However, he insists, his view is not based on a desire to improve his competitive chances, and instead is based on real safety concerns.
“I mean, what he deserves we are not very supportive of [regulation change] As a team because with every race we do we learn more and more about the car and any changes will limit that learning. So it’s not like we want it to change, it’s clearly a safety limitation.
“The top three teams are also in the same position, Ferrari and Red Bull, and more Ferrari than Red Bull, you can clearly see that they are struggling with that. Nobody is doing that to improve performance, it’s for safety reasons.
“I can barely see the braking zone because I flip so much. You go through those last two corners [in Baku]You have walls all around you, you do 200mph and the car moves up and down the ground – it’s not a very comfortable place to stay. As a group, we need a little rethinking.
“It definitely feels dangerous. It’s just an unnecessary feeling. You’re skating along the track and when you hit the ground the tires aren’t very hard on the ground, so it’s only a matter of time until we see something.”
F1 insists teams can counteract the rebound by operating at a higher riding height, and has indicated that it raised its own concerns about the problem last year before proposed changes to regulations were banned by the teams. He also points out that not all teams suffer from porpoise hunting.
If the FIA believes rebound is a real safety concern, it could force changes without majority agreement between the teams, although this appears unlikely at the moment.