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Drivers disagree on FIA intervention over ‘porpoising’

By AFP - Jun 18,2022 - Last updated at Jun 18,2022

Red Bull Racing’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Canada at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec, on Friday (AFP photo by Jim Watson)

MONTREAL — World champion Max Verstappen on Friday said a mid-season intervention on safety grounds to solve Formula One’s “porpoising” problems was “a bit of a shame”.

The Red Bull driver led the way as drivers and teams reaction to the idea of a potential rule-change was widely, but not entirely, rejected.

The sport’s ruling body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA), on Thursday announced it was intervening with a series of steps on medical grounds to prevent or eliminate “porpoising” and excessive bouncing after several drivers complained bitterly after recent races.

“I think it’s a bit disappointing that again there is a rule change mid-season, I would say,” said the 24-year-old Dutchman.

“It’s not about affecting us more or less than other teams, but it shouldn’t be that one team is complaining a lot and suddenly then they change the ‘regs’ around it.

“I think there are a lot of teams that actually did an amazing job to not have these kind of issues, so it is possible to drive around it.”

His reference to one team suggested he was talking about rivals Mercedes who have struggled badly with their new generation ‘ground effect’ car this year.

“If you raise your car then you won’t have these issues, but you lose performance,” he added, as quoted by Racer.

“But if you can’t design the car properly for that — then that’s your fault. It’s not the regs fault. So, for me it’s a bit of a shame.”


‘Feel rattled’


Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate George Russell, together with others including Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo and Daniel Ricciardo of McLaren warned of potential long-term physical consequences after suffering acute back pain.

Hamilton said he was glad to see the FIA taking action to protect drivers as a priority.

“It’s always interesting seeing people’s perspectives and opinions in different lights,” he told reporters. 

“I think safety is the most important thing. And I think there at least one driver in every team has spoken on it.”

He added Mercedes were trying a range of experiments to solve their performance problems.

“You’ll see today, for example, something relatively extreme,” he explained.

“If it doesn’t work, it’s definitely a lot slower because it’s got less down-force.

“But that’s my role and I take the responsibility seriously — and whilst, yes, it’s not been ideal on some weekends, often setting us back because we lost a session or two, that’s OK, because eventually we’ll get there and I’m proud to be a part of that process.

“I’d like to think I’m the best teammate I’ve ever been — to George, but also to all the engineers and everyone working in the factory.”

Russell said he felt “the vertical loads are far beyond what you’d expect is safe to deal wit”.

Red Bull are one of the few teams not impacted severely by the phenomenon.

Haas team chief Guenther Steiner suggested the mid-season intervention would change the performance “pecking order” of the teams.

“Some of the cars are pretty bad,” he said.

“But there is a solution — just raise the ride height. But then you go slow... and who wants to go slow?

“It’s like, I don’t know how many years ago, in the middle of the season when we had the change of tyres. It’s something like this.

“You change something fundamentally — you could change the pecking order completely again...

“Is that really fair? No. The use of the safety factor... but that could be approached, too — if it is too dangerous, just raise your ride height.”

Contrary to expectations, Russell said he did not think Mercedes wanted a mid-season rule-change.

“I think this is something that everybody thinks Mercedes is sort of pushing for,” he said.

“But from a pure performance side of things, we don’t really want change because if there’s change, you never know if it’s going in your favour or against you.”

He added that it was good to see the FIA considering drivers’ health and safety and taking action to protect them.

“It’s something we have spoken about and we want change, moving forward, because what we went through last weekend in Baku is not sustainable.”

Ricciardo said he had really suffered in Baku.

“It got worse and worse [his back pain],” he said.

“And I sympathise with everyone that’s had it now because it’s bad.

“I genuinely feel rattled. I’m definitely going to help out when people talk about it.”

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