RACING

Risk of brain damage from porpoising means F1 must act

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Mercedes Formula E driver and Formula One reserve driver Nyck de Vries talks to Mercedes F1 team principal Toto Wolff during a practice session July 22 ahead of the Grand Prix of France.

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Mercedes Formula E driver and Formula One reserve driver Nyck de Vries talks to Mercedes F1 team principal Toto Wolff during a practice session July 22 ahead of the Grand Prix of France.
Photo: Sylvain Thomas/AFP (Getty Images)

When Formula 1 returns after the month-long summer break for the Belgian Grand Prix, its regulatory officials will investigate each team’s chassis floors with further scrutiny to better understand the problem of porpoising. Whatever the FIA ​​learns will likely inform a rule change next year – one that Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff says needs to happen, given the health risks to competitors resulting of all this rebound.

Before we get to the nitty-gritty, yes: those are concerns expressed by Toto Wolff, the guy who runs the underachieving Mercedes F1 team, whose drivers have been among the most vocal protesters against porpoising in the past. Their peers from other teams have certainly complained about it tooalthough this tends to be overlooked as most F1 fans must believe the FIA ​​must always collude with somebody. When I was a kid, it was Ferrari; in recent years it was Mercedes, except for that critical moment when it wasn’t. Either way, Paris is apparently back in the tank for the Silver Arrows team.

Now that we’ve sorted that out, here’s what Wolff said courtesy of racing fans, paraphrasing medical data he said he recently received from FIA experts. (Part noted in bold by yours truly.)

“I’ve just sat down with the FIA ​​and there’s all these talks about lobbying back and forth and I think basically, what are we talking about,” he said.

“The FIA ​​has commissioned medical work on porpoising. The result, the doctors sum up, is that a frequency of one to two hertz, sustained for a few minutes, can lead to brain damage. We have six to seven hertz over several hours.

“So the answer is very simple. The FIA ​​must do something about this.

We haven’t heard much about porpoising in recent races, and that certainly didn’t stop Mercedes from taking second and third place on the podium. in Hungary this weekend. If you ask Wolff, it’s because the series has been hitting generally smoother circuits lately.. Spa-Francorchamps, he underlines, will not be part of it. The FIA ​​agrees.

“I still fundamentally believe there is no other choice for the FIA ​​and for us to do something because I don’t want it to come back to Spa or some of the later races where the track is not not as smooth as on a conventional race track and we haven’t done anything and people are saying, ‘well, now it’s too late,’” Wolff said.

The comment “Well now it’s too late” may be a jab at Red Bull team principal Christian Horner who said so in almost the same words a week earlier at Paul Ricard, while accusing Mercedes of pressuring the FIA. Although Horner is right: if other teams can design cars that don’t bounce as aggressively, it behooves Mercedes to go back to the drawing board and do the same. Until that happens, he’d probably have to run his cars higher to protect his talent and swallow the inevitable pace disadvantage.

That said, it’s not unreasonable suggest that the FIA has an obligation to investigate any phenomenon that could lead to brain damage in a person during one of its events. So it’s probably worth checking out! Whatever happens to this probe shouldn’t be a penalty for all non-Mercedes cars, especially if the FIA ​​leads with a limit on vertical oscillations. But it’s F1, and the fingers are used to pointing.

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