Hoppel problem
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Hopping, especially at high speeds, is a major physical strain for Formula 1 drivers. © Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press/AP/dpa

experts warn. Most drivers agree. Safety first. And yet there is a bang: in the middle of it all again are the team bosses from Mercedes and Red Bull. It’s all about the hopping of the Formula 1 cars.

Montréal – The discussion about the safety and health of the drivers is becoming a Zoff topic in Formula 1. And again, Mercedes and Red Bull in particular are crashing into each other, the former industry leader and the current one are once again on a verbal confrontation course.

“This is a sport where you try to keep or get a competitive advantage, but in this situation it’s clearly going too far,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

There are colleagues “who try to manipulate what is said in order to maintain a competitive advantage and try to play political games.” He did not name names directly. It is clear that Christian Horner should feel addressed by Red Bull. “It would be unfair to have a rule change halfway through the year because a team misses their target,” he said. He only sees one car that has problems – the Mercedes was meant.

Marko: “There is no need for action”

Motorsport consultant Helmut Marko also agreed with the Red Bull rhetoric. “There is no need for action. If you have a problem, you should raise your car.” And star pilot Max Verstappen even expressed the opinion: “There are many sports in which you damage your body. And when you end your career, you won’t be like you were when you were 20. That’s just how it is,” said the 24-year-old Dutchman. Footballers have problems with their knees. “We shouldn’t overdramatize what’s happening at the moment,” said Verstappen, the world championship leader.

But the opinion among the drivers is different. That’s why they turned to the International Automobile Federation Fia. It’s about the dangerous hopping of the cars, a phenomenon caused by the new aerodynamics regulation. The cars are pushed to the ground, there is a stall, they touch down and are pushed back up. This is repeated several times in seconds. And precisely where the drivers are traveling the fastest.

Long-term damage to the spine

“In a sport where competitors routinely drive at speeds in excess of 300 km/h, it is understood that a driver’s entire focus must be on the task,” the statement said. “In the interests of safety,” the Fia requires racing teams to “reduce or eliminate this phenomenon.” This decision was made “after consultation with the doctors”. The so-called technical directive reached quite a few only on the way to Canada. The Grand Prix should now become a test run, data from the cars will be collected.

“What must not happen is that the pilots are exposed to these heavy loads too often,” said sports scientist Ingo Froboese from the German Sport University in Cologne to the “Bild am Sonntag”. The health expert added: “Otherwise, long-term damage to the spine could occur, which could force drivers to end their careers early or cause permanent pain after their active careers.”

Australian McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo emphasized that it was a risk that was not under their control: “I think we probably already have enough risk in our sport.”

“Boys, the bouncing is really bad”

It’s about possible concussions, spinal problems, pain in the car during the race, it’s about perception behind the wheel in a sport that is dangerous anyway. Mercedes’ George Russell reported that he couldn’t even read the pit board at last Sunday’s race in Baku. Teammate Lewis Hamilton felt a little smaller in the days that followed.

It was only with great effort that he had heaved himself out of the Silver Arrow after the ordeal. Headaches have also been significantly more common than before for months, he said in Montréal. “I just took painkillers. Hopefully I don’t have concussions,” said the 37-year-old Brit.

“It cannot be that we drivers suffer short-term or long-term damage,” stressed Sebastian Vettel. The four-time world champion added: “We can’t go on like this for four or five years. Health comes before performance.”

It was also remarkable that Ferrari’s World Cup competitor Charles Leclerc tended to agree with Verstappen. “I don’t completely agree with that. It’s the team’s responsibility to give me a car to drive,” he said. Equally remarkable was the radio message from his teammate Carlos Sainz later to the Ferrari pits: “Guys, the jumping is really bad.” dpa

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