“Damn! My back is killing me!” Lewis Hamilton radioed shortly after halfway through the Azerbaijan Grand Prix of Formula 1 2022 in Baku. And after crossing the finish line, he got out of his Mercedes W13, visibly served. The eighth race of the season? A test of patience for Hamilton.
“I just struggled through because of the pain and the adrenaline,” says the seven-time world champion. “I can’t tell you how painful it is, especially on the straights. And in the end you just pray that it stops.”
The cause of Hamilton’s back pain lies in the peculiarity of the 2022 Formula 1 cars, especially jumping on straight sections. In technical jargon this is called “bouncing”. And the W13 silver arrow bounces a lot, sometimes the worst in the field.
That’s “not good,” says Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff when asked about it after the race. Hamilton’s pain is also of concern: “I think it’s not just muscular, but [that] it’s also in the bones,” said Wolff on ‘Sky’.
This is doubly painful for Mercedes: on the one hand, the drivers suffer physically from the bouncing, on the other hand, performance on the track suffers. Hamilton says: “Once we get the bouncing under control, then we’re in the race. But like this we certainly lost at least a second [per lap] just with the bouncing.”
And there is resistance in the Formula 1 paddock against this phenomenon, not only at Mercedes. Wolff speaks of a health issue where the drivers agree that you have to deal with it through the regulations. “All but one said it was a problem,” says Wolff. Only Fernando Alonso said the opposite.
Sebastian Vettel, in turn, agrees with Wolff and Hamilton: “I think we have to find a solution, [because] one or the other driver has to kneel down after the race,” he explains on ServusTV.
The German Aston Martin driver continues: “Of course you can now say: Yes, but the car jumps like that, then the set-up changes and then it’s good. But I don’t think we should take it upon ourselves to do that, but perhaps react with the rules. It can’t be that we’ve been driving around like this for four years now.”
According to Vettel, the World Automobile Federation (FIA) is in demand here. Because: “At some point it will bang and bang and then everyone will stand there and say: Yes, we have spoken to you about it before.”
Because Wolff emphasizes again: “Lewis is really in pain. We have to find a solution there. He is probably the worst hit of all drivers at the moment. As far as I know, it affects practically all drivers. And they say something has to happen.”
In the short term, however, no rule change can be implemented. Which raises the question of whether Hamilton can sit in the car normally at the Canadian Grand Prix, which is due in a few days, or whether Mercedes is better off putting the replacement drivers on standby as a precaution.
When asked, team boss Wolff stated that he was “definitely” concerned. “I haven’t seen or spoken to [Hamilton] yet, but you can see: this isn’t a muscle issue anymore, it’s really going on the spine now. And that can have consequences.”
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“So yes, the solution could be to have someone in reserve. But we have that at every race anyway, so that we can make sure that our cars drive,” says Wolff.
In addition, one is dependent on the technical skills of the employees. “We’re looking for all sorts of solutions, directed by Mike Elliott. He’s a really good Technical Director. And there are no sacred cows,” says Wolff. “We look at everything. And we will definitely fix the car.”
The only question is how long that will take, the Mercedes team boss continued. After all, it is a complex issue: “It all has to do with the aerodynamic performance of the underbody. And if we don’t solve it in the short term, perhaps because it’s a conceptual issue, then we’ll certainly do it over the next few months.”
Immediately after crossing the finish line, Wolff had said something similar to his driver Hamilton. Wolff said on the radio: “Lewis, we all know the car sucks to drive at the moment. I’m sorry about your back too. [But] we can do it.” Hamilton’s response was simple: “Let’s definitely make a change, okay?”
Pierre Gasly also chose drastic words after the race and held the FIA accountable: “I’m putting my health at risk here. It has never been as brutal as it is on this track. I am extremely tense. All weekend, every morning, the cervical spine and upper body was tighter than ever.”
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The original of this post “Vettel rages about health concerns in Formula 1: “At some point it’ll really pop”” comes from Motorsport-Total.com.