Wolff: FIA has 'no option than to do something' on porpoising

Toto Wolff (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director. 29.07.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Budapest, Hungary, Practice
© XPB 

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says that the FIA has to act on the issue of porpoising if it's to avoid long term health consequences for drivers, likening the situation to the impact of repeated concussions from repeated impacts in NFL.

Mercedes has been particularly badly affected by the phenomenon, which is a consequence of the reintroduction of ground effect aerodynamics into the sport this season.

It can result in the car oscillating up and down along straights, with possible serious effects for drivers and possible head, neck and back injuries from the constant shaking and buffeting.

The FIA is introducing new technical regulations from Belgium to address the issue with more measures due in 2023 - but not all the team principals are happy with the governing body's response.

Wolff denied that he was pressing the issue so hard in order to make up ground on rivals teams Red Bull and Ferrari who have been less seriously affected by porpoising and says the sport must go something about the problem.

"It's very simple: we have always said we can either do nothing, or do the right thing," Wolff told Motorsport.com. "Trying to leave things alone, or have teams lobbying for it or against it, is just completely irrelevant.

"The FIA says it doesn't want to have an NFL situation," he added, referring to a growing evidence that head-to-had impacts in American football are responsible for long-term brain damage and dementia among former players.

Mohammed Bin Sulayem (UAE) FIA President and Toto Wolff (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director. 29.07.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Budapest, Hungary, Practice

Wolff dismissed suggestions from his counterparts on the grid that Mercedes had been over-emphasising the problem for its own advantage. "The FIA has just no option than to do something.

"We have - the 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.

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

The problem is by no means limited to Mercedes. AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly revealed this week that he was so badly shaken around in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix that he had been forced to go to hospital for a check-up.

"Baku was the worst of all the circuits we raced on," he told the Italian version of the site. "Even if for me, it wasn't just a matter of pure porpoising.

"In our case, this problem is definitely linked to the type of track," Gasly said, referring to Baku City's notoriously bumpy temporary street circuit.

Pierre Gasly (FRA) AlphaTauri AT03. 12.06.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku Street Circuit, Azerbaijan, Race

"Our car has to be extremely low to be competitive and there are many, many bumps on that track," he explained.

"It was really hard on my back, to the point that after the weekend, I had to do an MRI to check that everything was okay with the vertebrae."

Lewis Hamilton also found Baku particularly grueling, and admitted that he had been been suffering from headaches since the season began.

"I am not taking it too seriously. I am just taking painkillers, hopefully I don’t have any micro-concussions," he said in June..

“I have not spoken to a specialist on [spinal] discs but I can feel mine,” he continued. “I am a little bit shorter this week and my discs are not in the best shape right now.

"That’s not good for longevity. There is no need for us to have long-term injuries. There’s a lot more bruising in the body after the race nowadays.

"It is taking more of the week to recover and you have to do a lot more to do it. I don’t think that’s to do with age, it’s because the bruising can be quite severe.

"When you experience up to 10-Gs on a bump which I had in the last race that is a heavy, heavy load on the lower and top part of your neck."

"Ultimately safety is the most important thing. It’s not about coping with the bouncing for the next four years, it’s about fixing it and getting rid of it so all of us don’t have back problems moving forwards.”

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