- F1 has a “porpoising” problem, whereby cars start bouncing when they reach high speeds.
- The problem has become a safety issue as drivers are suffering injured backs.
- AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost says those drivers should go home if they can’t handle F1 cars.
Formula One has a bouncing problem that is causing back pain for the drivers, but not everybody is convinced that it is a safety issue.
“Porpoising” — where Formula One cars start bouncing when they reach their highest speeds — has plagued most teams to varying degrees this season. However, the FIA was forced to get involved following the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, when drivers became more vocal about the injuries to their backs.
Scuderia AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost was asked about the FIA’s technical directive where they vowed to collect data and reduce porpoising. Tost said changes weren’t needed because everybody knew the new cars would be uncomfortable.
“It was clear from the very beginning towards that these [new] cars will not be easy to drive,” Tost said before the Canadian Grand Prix. “It is necessary that the cars are set up quite stiff … Now, the drivers complain about it. On one hand, I can understand; it’s not so easy for them. On the other hand, this is a Formula One car. And I remember back when the wing cars were out there, there was a driver coming to me on Sunday evening and said, ‘Tomorrow, I have to go to the dentist because I lose my feeling because the cars are so hard to drive.’ And it’s not nothing new.”
Tost went on to suggest that if the cars are too uncomfortable for the drivers, maybe they shouldn’t be in F1 at all.
“The drivers must do more training for the neck muscles and for the gluteus maximus, then this helps, for sure,” Tost said, later adding: “How much [the porpoising] can be controlled, I don’t know yet… But this is a Formula One car. This is not a Rolls Royce. And drivers should be aware of this. And if the cars are too stiff, or it’s too difficult for them, maybe they should stay at home, in the living room, sit in the chair, and then they can do the races on TV or wherever. I do not know.”
The FIA was forced to intervene when drivers started getting hurt
The porpoising problems reached a new level at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where the street circuit is already bumpy and typically sees some of the highest speeds of the year on the longest straight in F1 this season. Several complained about hurt backs, and Lewis Hamilton was seen struggling to get out of his car, leading to some concern that he might be forced to miss the next race in Montreal.
Though he did not miss the Canadian GP, Hamilton spoke about how bad the Azerbaijan GP was on his back.
“That was the worst race ever,” Hamilton said. “Probably the most painful race I have experienced and the toughest battle with the car I have ever experienced as well. I’m glad it’s over.”
At this point, the FIA is collecting and analyzing data, and it is not clear yet how they will implement changes in the middle of the season.
One option is to force teams like Mercedes to raise the height of the cars, which would reduce the bouncing but also reduce their speed. However, other teams that have already solved the porpoising problem are worried that the FIA will force changes on everybody, which could be more advantageous to the drivers who are still struggling with it.
Christian Horner, the team principal for AlphaTauri’s sister team Red Bull, has been vocal about wanting other teams like Mercedes to have to make adjustments.
“You have a choice where you run your car, don’t you?” Horner said before the race in Baku. “You should never run a car that’s unsafe … So it would seem unfair to penalize the ones that have done a decent job versus the ones that have perhaps missed the target slightly.”
Tost clearly agrees with Horner that they should not be forced to change.