Porpoising was a hot topic, with Mercedes drivers vocal about the beatings they endured, but things seemed to be even worse in Baku.
George Russell went so far as to say it was “only a matter of time before we see a major incident”.
“A lot of us can hardly keep the car straight over these bumps and we’re going at 300 km/h around the last two corners [in Baku] and we’ve reached the bottom of the valley and you can see on the asphalt how close the cars are to the ground,” said the Mercedes climber. “With the technology that we have in today’s environment it’s just unnecessary, it just seems unnecessary that we’re driving a Formula One car at over 200mph millimeters off the ground and it’s a recipe for one Catastrophe.
“I don’t really know what the future holds, but I don’t think we can keep that going for three years or how long these regulations are in place.”
According to the BBC, Russell raised the safety concerns of the cars bottoming out to the FIA during Friday’s drivers’ briefing. F1’s new technological regulations allow the cars to follow each other more closely, but to maximize performance the cars drive closer to the ground to aid in underbody aerodynamic efficiency.
In some cases, this has resulted in porpoises, which are essentially cars hopping up and down the straights. The aerodynamic phenomenon can be triggered by the car driving too close to the ground or by a bumpy track surface, like that at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Russell made it clear that he is not raising the matter because of a competitive advantage, but because of real security concerns.
“I mean, for what it’s worth, we’re not that massive for it [regulation change] as a team because with every race we drive we learn more and more about the car and any change will limit that learning. So it’s not like we want it to change, it’s clearly a safety constraint,” Russell said, per ESPN. “The top three teams are also in the same position, Ferrari and Red Bull, now Ferrari more than Red Bull, you can clearly see they are really struggling with that. Nobody does it to increase performance, it’s for safety reasons.
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“I can hardly see the braking zone because I’m jumping around like that. You go through the last two corners [in Baku]You have walls all around you and you’re driving 200mph and the car is bouncing up and down on the ground – it’s not a very comfortable position to be in. As a group, we need to rethink things a bit.
“It definitely feels dangerous. It just feels unnecessary. You’re driving down the track and when you hit the ground the tires don’t have that much force with the ground so it’s only a matter of time before we see something.”
Russell and teammate Lewis Hamilton aren’t the only ones who have mentioned concerns about porpoises. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz raised the issue ahead of last month’s Spanish Grand Prix.
He told Autosport that he too is “already feeling” the effects of the suspension and the porpoise.
“I think that will be a big challenge,” said Sainz. “I think even the curbs in Miami felt really aggressive in those cars. There were a few bumps at Imola that really hit the body. We have to think more than Monaco [about] as a driver and F1, how much tribute should a driver take on his back and health in an F1 career with that kind of car philosophy? I think we need to open the debate more than anything.
“I think the regulations are great. They do exactly what we need for racing. But do we have to run as stiff for the neck and back with this mass of cars as we have done lately? For me it’s more of a philosophical question to ask out there, maybe for F1 and all, to think about how much the driver actually has to pay with their health in their career to counteract that.”
Sainz added that he has “done my usual checks on my back and neck tension and I see I’m tighter all over the place this year. I don’t need expert advice to know that 10 years like this will be tough and you have to work a lot on mobility and flexibility.”
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