Carlos Sainz believes Formula 1 needs to consider the potential impact of porpoising on the long-term health of drivers.
The 2022 regulations allow cars to use ground effect to generate huge amounts of downforce from the floor, but that has led to porpoising – or severe bouncing – on the straights for some teams when they run their cars lower to gain performance. Sainz expects the issue is likely to figure heavily at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, and while he doesn’t have specific concerns about the physicality of the new cars in Monaco next week, he does want the drivers’ health to be considered.
“In winter testing this track was crazy, the porpoising that we had, so it will be a great reference to know where we are with this feature because it will be a good test,” Sainz said.
“I think as drivers and Formula 1 we need to (consider) how much of a toll a driver should be paying for his back and his health in a Formula 1 career with this kind of cars’ philosophy. I think we need to open a debate more than anything.
“The regulations are great – they are doing exactly what we needed for racing – but do we need to run as stiff for our necks and back as we are having to run lately with this car mass? For me, it’s more a philosophy question that I put out there for F1 and everyone to think about – how much a driver needs to pay a price in his career and his health in order to combat it. I am thinking more long-term.”
While Sainz said he hasn’t spoken to an expert about what damage might be being done by the forces being put through his body by the bouncing, he insists there are clear signs for how he is being affected currently, but he wants to talk to other drivers about their experiences.
“I haven’t had expert advice,” he said. “I’ve done my usual checks on my back and neck tightness and I see this year I’m tighter everywhere, and I am already feeling it. I don’t need expert advice to know that 10 years like this is going to be tough and you’re going to need to work a lot in mobility, flexibility and need to invest in overall body health.
“It’s probably a question that as drivers we don’t like talking about much, because we don’t like sounding let’s say weak. I’m strong. I’m actually very fit, I consider myself one of the fittest drivers and I’ve never struggled in a Formula 1 race at all. It’s more long-term, and for the benefit of all of us that maybe we should put it out there to talk about and see what options do we have.
“Then 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 ever, also factor in a bit of the driver? It could be interesting.
“It will get to a point that if we decide to go in certain directions the FIA needs to get involved, for sure. Let’s see in the future. It’s still very early days – it was pretty much a thought that I’ve been having in the first five races when I’ve been suffering with porpoising, and this situation that I’ve never really brought up in a meeting yet.
“I was probably thinking out loud and it’s still very young in my head, and I need to talk to other drivers like George (Russell) or others that are struggling with the same phenomenon. We need to pretty much sit together to see what we can offer or propose.”