Lewis Hamilton says he feels “a little bit shorter” heading into the Canadian Grand Prix after his porpoising issues in Baku, but Max Verstappen has hit out at the decision to alter regulations in the middle of the season.
Formula One’s regulator has vowed to “reduce or eliminate” porpoising on the advice of its medical team, just days after seven-time world champion Hamilton suffered with severe back pain in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Hamilton, 37, required assistance to get out of his Mercedes after his car bounced up and down at high speed throughout Sunday’s 51-lap race.
Mercedes ran their machines close to the ground in Baku to produce lower downforce.
But the move exaggerated the bouncing, and now the FIA has taken the decision to step in and attempt to make the sport safer.
A statement from F1’s governing body, released on Wednesday ahead of this weekend’s race in Canada, read: “The FIA, as the governing body of the sport, has decided that, in the interests of safety, it is necessary to intervene to require that the teams make the necessary adjustments to reduce or to eliminate this phenomenon (of porpoising).
“The FIA has decided to intervene following consultation with its doctors in the interests of safety of the drivers.
“In a sport where the competitors are routinely driving at speeds in excess of 300km/h (186 mph), it is considered that all of a driver’s concentration needs to be focused on that task and that excessive fatigue or pain experienced by a driver could have significant consequences should it result in a loss of concentration.
“In addition, the FIA has concerns in relation to the immediate physical impact on the health of the drivers, a number of whom have reported back pain following recent events.”
Hamilton underwent acupuncture and cryotherapy to make sure he was fit enough to drive in Montreal but is still feeling the consequences almost a week on.
“Putting the technical stuff aside, just to reiterate, I cannot stress more how important health is,” he said.
“We have got an amazing sport here but safety has to be paramount, it has to be the most important thing.
“I can definitely feel that I am a little bit shorter this week and my discs are definitely not in the best shape right now and that is not good for longevity.
“Ultimately safety is the most important thing and I think at least one driver in every team has spoken on it. I don’t think it will change an awful amount, but I think there’s lots of work that needs to be done.
“It is positive that the FIA are working towards improving it because we have this car for the next few years. It is not about coping with the bouncing for the next few years, it is about completely getting rid of it and fixing it so that future drivers, all of us, don’t have back problems moving forward.
“I don’t think it is going to change much in performance, but I might be wrong. Who knows? We’ll see.”
Verstappen, who pipped Hamilton to the title last season in dramatic fashion, leads the current championship standings and extended his advantage with victory on the streets of Baku.
The Red Bull cars suffer much less with bouncing on the straights and Verstappen is not keen on regulations being changed mid-season.
“For me, regardless if it is going to help or work against us, rule changes in the middle of the year I don’t think it is correct,” the Dutchman said.
“I understand the safety part of it, but I think if you talk to every engineer in the paddock, if you raise your car you will have less issues anyway.
“You are going to try and find the limit of what your body can cope with for performance, but I don’t think for now it is correct for them to intervene and start applying these rules.
“It is very simple, just go up on ride height and you won’t have these issues. It is basically a little bit complicated and I also think it will be very hard to police.
“We are willing to take risks, that is our sport, that is what I love to do. The porpoising we have at the moment is not nice and not correct, but we don’t need to over-dramatise.”
The decision of the FIA to intervene has split the paddock, with Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell adding: “There are obviously a lot of mixed agendas here from different teams and drivers.
“We have heard from Carlos (Sainz), Sergio Perez and Max earlier in the season how bad it has been.
“But now their performance is strong they don’t want changes because it can only only hinder them. So it is a bit of a shame to see performance being prioritised over safety.”