‘It’s like heading heavy footballs’: George Russell fears ‘health consequences’ of porpoising in F1

The British driver compared the situation when the car violently bounces on its suspension at high speed to football’s dementia problem

Philip Duncan
Friday 20 May 2022 17:43
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<p>Russell’s Mercedes team have had problems with porpoising this season </p>

Russell’s Mercedes team have had problems with porpoising this season

George Russell fears Formula One drivers could be exposed to long-term head trauma if the sport’s ‘porpoising’ phenomenon is not resolved.

The British driver compared the new-for-2022 sensation - when the car violently bounces on its suspension at high speed - to football’s dementia problem.

A recent study showed former professional footballers are three-and-a-half times more likely to die from the disease than the general population.

Mercedes have visibly suffered with porpoising more than most following the introduction of new aerodynamic rules.

But Ferrari - despite their driver Charles Leclerc holding a 19-point title lead over Red Bull’s Max Verstappen ahead of Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix - have also suffered.

“When you are travelling at 200mph on the straight, and you are smashing up and down on the ground, for sure you wouldn’t choose to have it that way,” said Russell, 24.

“The cars are extremely rigid and they are not meant to be a comfortable ride. You could compare it to the footballers of the 60s, 70s and 80s when they had the massively heavy footballs.

“Research was done and analysis was done that there were health consequences for these chaps who headed the ball, and things were changed.

“Formula One is the centre of innovation and there is no reason why we cannot find a scientific solution for this.”

(PA Graphics)

Mercedes have brought a number of new parts to the sixth round of the campaign at a sweltering Circuit de Catalunya - including a revised floor and a new front wing - in the hope of combating the porpoising woes which have so far derailed their campaign.

While the problem was still evident in both Friday’s practice sessions, Hamilton and Russell did not appear to be bouncing as vehemently as at other rounds.

And although Friday’s times have to be treated with caution as the teams trial different fuel loads, tyres and engine modes, both drivers will be encouraged by their pace.

Russell finished second, just 0.117 sec behind Leclerc. Hamilton was third, two tenths adrift, while world champion Max Verstappen finished fifth for Red Bull.

“It is positive and I am super happy with the progress so a big thank you to everybody back at the factory for not giving up and continuing to push,” said Hamilton.

“We are not the quickest, but we are on our way. It is much nicer than it has been before and so I am grateful for the upgrades and we now need to fine-tune them and try to position the car.

“We can get it into a better place tomorrow so we can attack the heels of the guys ahead.”

Hamilton is already 68 points behind Ferrari’s Leclerc, with his dreams of a record-breaking eighth crown all but over for the year.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has indicated Sunday’s race will be pivotal in determining whether the world champions continue with their no-sidepod design or try a different concept.

“I’m not a designer, and I wouldn’t say I have an opinion on whether the design is right or wrong,” said Hamilton. “It looks a bit different to some others but it looks unique and that’s what we stand for as a team - always innovating and coming up with interesting concepts.

“As Toto said we will understand from this weekend whether where we are is the right direction and if not we will move in another direction.

“But it does not mean we have to start from scratch. It will probably be a sidestep in another direction.”

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