Porpoising has been a hot topic with Mercedes drivers being vocal about the bouncing they’ve endured, but it seemed to be even worse in Baku.
George Russell went as far as to say it’s “just a matter of time before we see a major incident.”
“A lot of us can barely keep the car in a straight line over these bumps and we are going around the last two corners at 300km/h [in Baku] and we are bottoming out and you can visibly see on the tarmac how close the cars are running to the ground,” the Mercedes rising star said. “It is just unnecessary with the technology we have in today’s environment, it just seems unnecessary that we are running a Formula One car at over 200 mph millimetres from the ground and it’s a recipe for disaster.
“I don’t really know what the future holds but I don’t think we can sustain this for three years or however long these regulations are in force for.”
According to BBC, Russell raised the safety concerns of the cars bottoming out to the FIA during the driver’s briefing on Friday. F1’s new technological regulations allow the cars to follow each other more closely, but in an effort to maximize performance, the cars run closer to the ground to help with the efficiency of underfloor aerodynamics.
In some cases, this has resulted in porpoising, which is essentially the cars bouncing up and down on the straights. The aerodynamic phenomenon can be triggered from the car running too close to the ground or from a bumpy track surface, such as the one at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Russell made it clear that he’s not raising the matter because of a competitive advantage but rather a real safety concern.
“I mean, for what it’s worth we are not as massively in favor for it [regulation change] as a team because with every race we do, we are learning more and more about the car and any changes is going to limit that learning. So it’s not like we want it to change, it is clearly a safety limitation,” Russell said, per ESPN. “The top three teams are also in the same position, Ferrari and Red Bull, well Ferrari more than Red Bull you can clearly see they are really struggling with that. Nobody is doing it for performance enhancement, it’s because of safety reasons.
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“I can barely see the braking zone because I am bouncing around so much. You go through those last two corners [in Baku], you have walls all around you, and you are doing 200 mph and the car is bouncing up and down on the floor—it is not a very comfortable position to be in. As a group we need a bit of a rethink.
“It definitely feels dangerous. It just feels unnecessary. You are skating along the track and when you are hitting the ground, the tires aren’t in force with the ground so much, so it’s only a matter of time until we see something.”
Russell and teammate Lewis Hamilton are not the only ones who have mentioned the concern of porpoising. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz raised the issue last month ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix.
He revealed to Autosport that he, too, is “already feeling” the effects of the suspension and porpoising.
“I think it’s going to be a big challenge,” Sainz said. “I think already the curbs in Miami felt proper aggressive in these cars. There’s been a few bumps in Imola that were quite hard on the body. More than Monaco, we need to think [about] as drivers and F1 how much of a toll a driver should be paying for his back and his health in an F1 career with this kind of car philosophy? I think we need to open the debate more than anything.
“I think the regulations are great. They’re doing exactly what we need it for racing. But do we need to run as stiff for our necks and back as we are having to run lately, with this car mass? For me, it’s more a philosophical question that I put out there, maybe for F1 and everyone to rethink about how much the driver needs to actually pay a price in his career with his health, in order to combat this.”
Sainz added that he has “done my usual checks on my back, neck tightness, and I see this year I’m tighter everywhere. I don’t need expert advice to know that 10 years like this it’s going to be tough, and you’re going to need to work a lot in mobility, flexibility.”
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