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Got 99 problems and a porpoise is one

Got 99 problems and a porpoise is one

It's that time of year again...

The annual event that gets Merry England's motor heads hot under the bonnet.

We refer, of course, to the British Grand Prix and this weekend - Silverstone.

But all is not well in the land of Formula One.

A problem's afoot...

Which has even the brightest of boffins bewildered.

It's called "porpoising".

And no, it has nothing to do with large aquatic mammals...

Instead, it's a classic example of new problems created by genius solutions to old problems.

Without getting too techie:

The lower the car is to the ground, the more aerodynamic it is, and the faster it goes.

And with speed being the name of the game, F1 engineers have been cooking up devious ways of hunkering their cars ever closer to the ground.

A recent example:

Turning the underside of the car into an aerodynamic "wing".

Which instead of making it fly, sucks the car even lower.

The new problem?

The downforce is now so great, taking the car so close to the ground, that either a) air flowing under the car is blocked entirely, or b) the bottom of the car hits the track.

Either way, the sudden loss of downward force causes the car to spring up.

Then, with airflow resumed, it sucks air again and it hunkers back down.

This cycle of springing up and down makes the car bounce...

And is what people call "porpoising".

And while bouncing might not sound like a big deal....

When you're screaming down the straights at 220 mph, it's not ideal.

And the solution isn't exactly clear.

Raising the height of the car stops porpoising, but sacrifices speed going round corners.

But not raising the height of the car means sacrificing speed on the straights due to porpoising.


And the fact that every track has a different ratio of straights to corners throws another spanner in the works.

But enough of this.

Why are we talking about F1 anyway?

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