Carlos Sainz has warned he fears for the long-term health of Formula One drivers because of the violent bouncing they are being subjected to on track. The Spanish Ferrari driver said he will discuss the issue with other drivers with a view to bringing it up with the FIA.
Speaking in the buildup to his home grand prix this weekend in Barcelona, the 27-year-old was unequivocal in expressing his concern over the effects of what is known as porpoising – the car bouncing on straights as it gains and loses ground-effect downforce – on the necks and backs of drivers. The problem has plagued many teams on the grid, including Ferrari and Mercedes, and was an unexpected side-effect of this year’s new regulations.
“We need to consider how much of a toll a driver should be paying for his back and his health in a Formula One career,” he said. “With this kind of cars’ philosophy we need to open a debate more than anything.
“I have done checks on my back and neck tightness and this year it is tighter everywhere, I am already feeling it. I don’t need expert advice to know that 10 years like this is going to be tough.”
The Mercedes driver George Russell had previously warned the health issues were unsustainable and that after the Emilia Romagna GP at Imola he had suffered with back and chest pains from the porpoising. To combat it teams have been running their cars with stiffer suspension, which pushes more impact force through the driver, exacerbated by the increased weight of these cars, which was making it harder to deal with, Sainz said.
“To run as stiff for our necks and backs as we are having to run lately with this car mass, it’s a question for F1 and everyone to think about,” he said. “How much a driver needs to pay a price in his career and his health in order to combat it. I am thinking long term.”
The new regulations were brought in with the intention of increasing overtaking, which thus far seems to have worked, and Sainz acknowledged it was the right direction for the sport to take, but insisted the unforeseen side-effects must be considered.
“There is the interest of the teams, of overtaking, of the show you need to factor in the equation but what if we for the first time also factor in the driver? It could be interesting,” he said. “It will get to a point that if we decide to go in certain direction the FIA needs to get involved. It’s still a new idea for me and I need to talk to other drivers like George that are struggling with the same phenomenon, to sit together to see what we can offer or propose.”