Sainz raises driver health concerns over current F1 cars
12: 41 PM ET
Laurence EdmondsonF1 Editor
- Joined ESPN in 2009
An FIA accredited F1 journalist since 2011
BARCELONA, Spain — Carlos Sainz is concerned about the long-term health impact of racing the latest generation of Formula One cars after experiencing intense stiffness in his neck and back after races this year.
New technical regulations for 2022 have opened up the possibility of generating immense amounts of downforce from the car’s underfloor aerodynamics, which had effectively been outlawed under the previous regulations by mandating cars with flat floors. However, the new emphasis on underfloor aerodynamics has had a knock-on effect on driver comfort. Teams have to adjust the suspension to get the best performance from the car’s floor.
The new car designs can cause bouncing on straights when the floor is closer to the track surface. The underfloor aerodynamics may temporarily stall as a result. This phenomenon is known as porpoising in F1 and can be seen on some cars as drivers’ heads bouncing against the cockpit seat headrest.
After the fourth race of the season in Italy, Mercedes driver George Russell said he had experienced chest and back pain because the porpoising was so bad on his car, and a number of drivers have spoken about how uncomfortable it is to drive the current cars.
Sainz believes that the issue should be addressed at a rule-making stage.
” We need to think about how much a driver should pay for his back and health during a Formula One career,” said the Ferrari driver. “This car’s philosophy requires that we have a debate.
” I have already felt tightening in my neck and back this year. Expert advice is not necessary to know that this will be a tough ten year. “
The current regulations were created to improve racing spectacles by reducing airflow from the rear of the lead car, so that the chasing vehicle can run closer and not lose downforce. Sainz believes that future rule changes should consider the drivers’ health and the show.
“To be as stiff for our necks or backs as we have been having to run recently with this car mass, that’s something F1 and everyone should think about,” he stated.
” How much a driver must pay in his career and in his health to fight it. I think long-term.
“The teams are interested in overtaking. But what if we also consider the driver? It could be very interesting.
“Eventually, the FIA will need to be involved if we decide to move in a certain direction. 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. “
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.