Christian Horner and Toto Wolff are at extreme odds over the bouncing debate which has boiled away behind the scenes in the Formula 1 paddock.
Mercedes have suffered severely so far this season with porpoising, mechanical bouncing and bottoming out to the extent it has left its drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in physical pain – the former rather visibly after the Azerbaijan GP.
The team’s issues abated somewhat on the Saturday and Sunday of the Canadian GP weekend, enabling Hamilton to score his second podium of the season and finish ahead of Russell, but were seemingly in play on the Friday.
The Red Bull RB18 meanwhile has not been impacted by unexpected porpoising or bouncing this season, especially not to the extent of most other teams. Mercedes team principal Wolff, alongside the Mercedes drivers, Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon have all called for emergency regulation changes to be implemented by the FIA in the hope of preventing long-term health issues or freak injuries for the drivers.
Red Bull team principal Horner on the other hand is adamant that the issue needs to be sorted by the teams in question, as he argues it is not an issue with the regulations, but with certain teams’ individual packages and philosophies that only they should have to work to overcome.
“The issue with Mercedes is more severe, or certainly has been prior to Canada’s race than any other car,” Horner said. “That surely is down to the team – that’s within their control to deal with that. If it’s not affecting others, and I know it was said other drivers have been complaining, our drivers have never complained ever about porpoising.
“They’ve said certain circuits could do with tidying up, perhaps resurfacing in places. But we haven’t had an issue with bouncing. The problem [with the Mercedes] is they’re running their car so stiff, I think their concept is the issue rather than the regulation,” noted Horner.
Team principals held an eventful meeting on the Canadian GP weekend, after the FIA introduced a last minute technical directive to develop a metric to control the “vertical oscillations”, but which was soon postponed indefinitely. An element which wasn’t postponed however was the allowance for a second upright floor stay to stiffen the floor in light of porpoising fears. Only Mercedes managed to produce a set of second stays in which Hamilton and Russell tested separately in Friday practice.
“As a meeting, it was a shame, …So obviously Ferrari presented its position regarding the TD, and Toto is campaigning for a change in regulations, which is somewhat ironic because his car looked quite quick today with not a lot of bouncing,” Horner stated.
“And I think it was just pointed out to him clearly that perhaps his issues were within rather than everybody’s issue. I think there was an element of theatre going on in that meeting. So you know, maybe with Lewis’s new movie coming along and getting him enrolled for it.
“Azerbaijan and Canada was always going to be two of the worst races on the calendar. It didn’t look like an issue in the race [in Canada] and, of course, there is a process of these things to be introduced. I think what was particularly disappointing was the second stay, because it has to be discussed in a technical forum.
“And that is overtly biased to sorting one team’s problems out, which were the only team that turned up here with it even in advance of the TD. So, work that one out. They know where we can go with it. I know, you wouldn’t want to say.”
Horner doubts that porpoising and bouncing will remain an issue for very long if its simply left to the teams to fix through clever solutions. He also believes that the FIA should utilise their power to disqualify cars from sessions if something is considered too dangerous.
“You’ve got some of the brightest engineering talent in the world, things will converge,” Horner says. “I doubt we’ll be sitting here next year talking about the bouncing, even if the regulations are left alone. These cars are still relatively new, I think there’s still, as teams add developments to their cars, you’ll probably start to see them start to address some of these issues.
“You can’t just suddenly change technical regulations halfway through a season. If a car is dangerous, a team shouldn’t field it: it has that choice. Or the FIA, if they feel an individual car is dangerous. They always have a black flag at their disposal,” summed up Horner.
Mercedes boss Wolff reacts by insisting that fellow team principals make sure they think of the bigger picture and the “core” of the topic. He goes against Horner’s reassurance that neither Max Verstappen or Sergio Perez have complained about bouncing, claiming that every team except Alfa Romeo and Williams has seen complaints.
“The political manoeuvring that has been going on doesn’t consider what is at the core of this topic,” Wolff explains. “And at the core of this topic is that since the beginning of the season, race drivers have been complaining about pain to drive these cars. Back pain, blurred vision, we’re talking about micro concussions and people giving their feedback in literally every team.
“I think just Alfa Romeo and Williams I haven’t heard in all the other teams drivers have referred to that topic and this is something we just need to tackle, whatever the solution is, whatever technically can be implemented to go in that direction.
“And we need to be aware that this is not about cutting a winglet that is an advantage for a team or a double diffuser. It is that all of us team principals and teams, we have the responsibility to not take this lightly.”
Here’s Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz on Canadian GP