Why a Mercedes experiment upset Alpine so much in Canada - The Race
Formula 1

Why a Mercedes experiment upset Alpine so much in Canada

Jun 18 2022
By Scott Mitchell-Malm

The appearance of an experimental second floor stay on Mercedes’ Formula 1 car in Canadian Grand Prix practice upset at least one rival team.

On Thursday ahead of this weekend’s race, the FIA revealed it would intervene to address excessive porpoising and bouncing suffered by some teams with the 2022 F1 cars.

Among its short-term measures was allowing teams to add a secondary floor stay, having previously agreed the first stay would be permitted in between the pre-season tests.

The late notice of this FIA technical directive suggested no team would be able to react in time to have a second stay on the car in Montreal – but Mercedes did.

Mercedes’ second stay was an attempt at responding to the FIA technical directive on-site. It appeared on George Russell’s car in FP1 and Lewis Hamilton’s as well in FP2.

Though it has not been explained exactly how Mercedes reacted so fast, theoretically it would be feasible to take an existing stay, shorten it and put a mounting point on the body and (more inboard) on the floor.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Canadian Grand Prix Practice Day Montreal, Canada

Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer’s comments about the technical directive and the appearance of a second floor stay at an unnamed team (when Mercedes is the only one to have run it…) made it clear his organisation was very unhappy with how this FIA intervention had played out so far.

“If you came here with a stay – we didn’t know because the TD came up on Thursday so we don’t have one – that just means you can stiffen the floor, run the car even lower and gain an aerodynamic advantage,” said Szafnauer.

“So to be able to do that, I think that isn’t fair for the rest of us that couldn’t bring a stay, for example.

“We’ve got to be careful that we don’t change the playing field mid-season. I just say we can run these cars safely. Just raise the ride height.”

Alpine’s upset because it stiffened its floor to cure its porpoising problems at the expense of weight and now feels like rival teams are getting a free pass.

But the specific ire about the timing of the technical directive and the potential advantage it gave to Mercedes as the only team trying an extra floor stay was interesting.

Especially as Szafnauer made barely-veiled threats that any team running a second stay (again, just Mercedes) may find themselves protested.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Canadian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Montreal, Canada

“The TD came out when our chief technical officer was flying over,” said Szafnauer. “So, it was quite late and we aren’t able to produce a stay here.

“As far as the process goes, it’s a technical directive. And technical directives, as we all know, aren’t regulations.

“It could very well be that we shouldn’t be running this in qualifying, in the race. And if teams have brought those stays, I would imagine they could be perhaps looked at after and protested.

“It’s against the regulation as it stands today. But we definitely don’t have one. And unfortunately, if you do have an extra stay, you can run the car lower and stiffer and gain some advantage.”

This appears to be a big fuss over nothing, though, as it has been a futile effort from Mercedes for now. The experiment was not effective and the second stay will not be run for the rest of the weekend.

Some teams have suggested it would not be allowed anyway because the technical directive has been postponed to the next race – but this is only partly true.

The second floor stay is considered by the FIA to be separate to phase two of the technical directive, which is defining and applying the bouncing limit.

So, the use of a second stay is fine and effective immediately, in the eyes of the FIA technical department. It’s the other stuff that’s being pushed back to the British GP.

Although ultimately, if Mercedes’ experiment didn’t work and the stay was never going to be kept on anyway, then the muttering of a potential protest is simply rendered a moot point.

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