Lewis Hamilton says raising his car’s ride height is not the simple solution to porpoising drivers such as Max Verstappen claim it is.
The FIA announced yesterday it had issued a technical directive to teams aimed at reducing the severe porpoising and bouncing drivers have experienced in their cars since the beginning of the season.
The move has been criticised by Verstappen who claimed, along with his Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, that teams who are experiencing porpoising can solve it by increasing the right height of their cars, which has a detrimental effect on performance.
However, Hamilton said there is a limit to how far his car can be raised and this alone is not enough to cure their porpoising, even after the updated they introduced at the Spanish Grand Prix which eased the problem.
“In the last race and previous races, we have raised the car, and we still have bouncing,” he said.
“Porpoising is more about the flow structure underneath the car. We ran the car very high most of the season and it’s not until Barcelona that we decided to go a little bit lower. We had no bouncing for the first time in Barcelona except in the high-speed corners, and then it appeared again in Monaco and in Baku, so we have to raise the car again. But even when we raise the car, this thing still bounces.
“We can’t go any higher, actually, we are limited by the suspension now. So we do lose performance naturally when you do go higher, but the thing still is porpoising caused by the disruptive flow underneath the car.”
Verstappen said the FIA should not introduce a mid-season rules change to reduce porpoising. However Hamilton, speaking in the same press conference as his rival, said the drivers’ safety should come first, and suggested some of them have made different comments about the problem away from the media.
“It’s always interesting seeing people’s perspectives and opinions in different light,” he said. “Obviously in front of you is one thing and in the background sometimes people say different things.
“But ultimately I think safety is the most important thing. I think there’s at least one driver in every team has spoken on it and I don’t think it’s going to change a huge amount, but I think there’s lots of work that needs to be done.
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“It’s positive that the FIA are working towards improving it because we have this car for the next few years. So it’s not about coping with the bouncing for the next four years, it’s about completely getting rid of it and fixing it so that in future drivers, all of us don’t have back problems moving forwards.”
Hamilton said he suffered considerable pain due to porpoising during last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
“There’s a lot more bruising in the body after the races nowadays, so it’s taking most of the week generally to recover,” he said. “You have to do a lot more.
“I don’t think that generally has anything to do with age, I think that’s just generally because the bruising can be quite severe. It’s interesting to hear from other drivers, I think for the other drivers that have experienced it in the back that way, when you’re experiencing 10Gs on the bounce on a bump up to 10Gs – which is what I experienced in the last race – that’s a heavy, heavy load on the lower part and the top part of your neck as well.”
“In terms of micro-concussions, I’ve definitely been having a lot more headaches in the past months,” he added, “but I have not seen the specialists about it, I’m not taking it too seriously, I’ve just been taking painkillers so I haven’t had concussions.”
He believes the problem of porpoising was not anticipated when F1 and the FIA devised the new technical regulations introduced this year, which were intended to make it easier for drivers to overtake.
“They looked at a lot of stuff, but they didn’t anticipate this coming,” he said. “So we need to work together with all the teams, the FIA need to work with all teams, to progress forward and when it’s on safety grounds, it means everyone needs to move.”
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