Bumpy Baku gives drivers a headache as 'porpoising' resurfaces

·3-min read

Baku's bumpy street circuit, venue for Sunday's Azerbaijan Grand Prix, has left drivers shaken from all the bouncing they are subjected to in this season's radically redesigned cars.

The so-called 'porpoising' issue has dogged teams like Mercedes more than most with Lewis Hamilton saying he was left "a bit sore" after Friday's two practice sessions.

"It's bouncing a lot" the seven-time world champion reported after posting only the 12th fastest time behind Charles Leclerc.

Pierre Gasly, who enjoyed his two sessions in the AlphaTauri, complained over the team radio: "The ride is pretty shocking, I have never felt that much bottoming".

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz described the undesirable consequence of new rules to promote closer racing as "really annoying around here".

Hamilton's teammate George Russell even suggested to the BBC that the problem was so profound the rules required a rethink.

"I don't think it's right to run like this for the next four years or whatever we've got.

"Conversations are going to be needed because everybody is in the same boat."

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, tackled on 'porpoising' at Saturday's pre-qualifying press conference said: "Some cars don't have the issue, others have it worse, I can talk for our two drivers, they are having issues sometimes not even a physio can fix it."

He said the two Silver Arrows were "bottoming out badly" at certain sectors of the track.

"We're losing a second on all straights to Ferrari and Red Bull".

- 'It's a challenge' -

His Ferrari counterpart Mattia Binotto said that while they had also experienced "bouncing and bottoming" in Friday practice "it was not a limitation to our performance".

Binotto did not go along with Russell's call for a change in the 2022 car's design.

"A Formula One car is not the most comfortable car to drive, it's a challenge for drivers no doubt.

"I'm pretty sure we can make progress and find a solution medium to longterm."

Haas boss Gunther Steiner insisted it was "a bit early to think about doing something dramatic".

"At the moment we need to stick with this regulation, in general it's not working badly," he added.

Leclerc edged Monaco winner Sergio Perez in Friday's opening practice sessions and the Ferrari driver will fancy his chances of securing his sixth pole out of eight later Saturday after third and final practice.

While the two Ferraris and Red Bulls fight out the title race Mercedes can only hope all their efforts to find a solution to their 2022 car's problems comes sooner rather than later.

"Our problem is not the engine, between the dragging and the bottoming it's like we seem to have a parachute behind the car," said Wolff.

"When you are doing work as normal but it doesn't produce results then a feeling of frustration creeps in for sure, that's a normal consequence after success over many years then you find yourself in such a dip.

"But there's lots to look forward to. We know there's inherent performance in car, but (at the moment) we are unable to unlock it. It's science, it's physics, sometimes it takes time."


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