Porpoising is effectively the car bouncing up and down because it is so close to the ground that its diffuser stalls, leading to the rear end rising as the load is reduced then dropping again as the load builds up again.
Its variants afflicted all teams to a greater or lesser extent at Barcelona, including Williams.
Barcelona this week offered the first hints of the 2022 Formula 1 cars’ key challenges, with the return of past ground effect headache ‘porpoising’ the headline issue.
But if teams and drivers found Barcelona bad for it, wait until they get to circuits with more bumps and aggressive kerbs than Barcelona.
In those scenarios, reckons Williams driver Alex Albon, the true difficulties of the 2022 F1 cars will be revealed and “porpoising is going to be terrible”.
Alex Albon says the effect of ‘porpoising’ in Formula 1 does not have an impact on lap time, and can be dealt with by the drivers.
‘Porpoising’ has been one of the buzzwords of the week as Formula 1’s new cars took to the track for the first time in anger in Barcelona, which is a term last associated with the sport in the late 1970s, when the last ground effect cars were in place.
Due to the cars’ aerodynamic profile now predominantly coming from underneath the car, the airflow going towards the floor sucks the car closer to the track surface to create the downforce they need.
Having the new cars in action at high speed has seen them bounce up and down at speed in creating downforce, in the same kind of movement as a porpoise would make in their natural environment, thus creating the term.
It has shown itself to be an issue for the drivers which were not necessarily anticipated in their simulations, and Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto predicts the team which can get on top of ‘porpoising’ will see a performance boost.
But the Williams driver does not feel the effect has a negative impact on how fast the cars can travel – despite concerns of floor damage over time.
“Everyone’s got it a little bit, I think some more than others,” Albon said, quoted by Motorsport.com. “It’s there but honestly, it doesn’t really affect lap time that much.
“So you’re kind of like, as long as it’s not damaging the car, you can kind of deal with it.
“It’s obviously a very different car compared to previous years. And, yeah, it makes Turn 1 a little bit more interesting.”
Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen have all spoken positively about the improvements in being able to follow cars in front of them, after deliberately putting themselves in the slipstream of other drivers on certain runs in Barcelona.
Albon joined them in their assessment of feeling an improvement in how the cars can run in close proximity, acknowledging that he expected following to be more difficult than it ended up being.
“I had a couple of laps behind [Pierre] Gasly,” he elaborated. “Feels good, initial feeling. Obviously, I haven’t raced in a while so it’s a bit harder on that side.
“But I was surprised how fast I could stay in through Turn 2, Turn 3, almost under-driving because I was expecting worse, if that makes sense. But the initial feeling is positive.”
Porpoising is going to be terrible – Alex Albon Porpoising is going to be terrible – Alex Albon