F1 cannot risk “NFL situation” by not acting on porpoising

The FIA is set to introduce new limits of how much cars can bounce from the next race in Belgium before pushing through regulation changes for 2023 to curb the porpoising issue teams have encountered this year.

A number of drivers have highlighted the possible safety issues involved, but some teams have questioned whether it is a genuine safety matter and if it is instead being used as justification for changes that might offer a competitive advantage. 

Mercedes F1 boss Wolff has seen his team face some of the worst bouncing issues this season, most notably in Baku, where Lewis Hamilton was seen holding his back after getting out of the car at the end of the race. 

Wolff warned the FIA could not ignore the data pointing to the possible dangers of porpoising, noting the medical research conducted with American Football players relating to head injuries after repetitive impacts through their careers.

“It’s very simple: we have always said we can either do nothing, or do the right thing,” Wolff told Motorsport.com in an interview.

“We have, and FIA has, you can ask them, medical analysis, that frequencies of one or two hertz over several minutes can lead to long term brain damage. We have six to seven hertz over several hours.

“The FIA has just no option than to do something, and I think that trying to leave things alone, or have teams lobbying for it or against it, it’s just completely irrelevant.

“It’s a medical question that needs to be answered. And these reports are a reality and they are fact. I don’t think that the gang around the FIA will let themselves be manipulated in either direction.

“The GPDA gave their statements, the drivers have given the statements on an anonymous form. The competent specialists and doctors have been consulting, and the result is that it’s not good for long-term effect.

“The FIA says it doesn’t want to have an NFL situation.”

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem wrote on Twitter earlier this week that the updated technical regulations for 2023 had been sent to the World Motor Sport Council, although it is unclear what if any agreement had been reached with teams concerning the floor changes.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said in France that the “lobbying” to change the rules for 2023 were to help a “certain team”, hinting at Mercedes. 

But Wolff said he saw the push to make these changes “very differently” to previous efforts to get rule breaks, and that Mercedes’ recent upswing in form – including its first pole of the season in Hungary courtesy of George Russell – is not any reason to give up on efforts to change the rules because of the important safety issue at hand.

“You could say today, it seems like we have understood our car, we are on top of it – we have pole, let’s not change anything,” Wolff said.

“It’s irrelevant, because it is a frequency of bouncing and porpoising that’s bad for the drivers. We don’t understand and can’t even relate how it is to be shaken around in these cars.

“Have we got and have all the teams gotten on top of it? Maybe. Maybe not. We haven’t been on a bouncing track.

“Do we need to have some precautions for next year? Yes, for sure.”

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