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Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton is struggling with the technical problems of his car. © Sergei Grits/AP/dpa

In Formula 1, the drivers rebel against the Hoppel cars. The pilots worry about their health and even fear serious incidents. Lewis Hamilton is even threatened with a forced break.

Baku – Lewis Hamilton struggled out of his silver arrow in great pain. The back, the head, almost everything hurt the Formula 1 superstar after the Baku ordeal in the wildly hopping Mercedes.

Team boss Toto Wolff immediately worried whether the 37-year-old would be able to compete in the next race in Canada this weekend. “Definitely” a forced break for Hamilton is possible. The constant blows in the cockpit, from which many pilots in the new cars suffer, are probably the biggest problem for the Brit. “It goes really deep on the spine and that has consequences,” said Wolff.

Now Hamilton gave at least a cautious all-clear. “The back is a bit sore and bruised, but fortunately nothing serious.” He slept badly that night and was treated with physiotherapy and acupuncture. Hamilton ruled out not starting in Canada: “I’ll be there this weekend, I wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world.”

Hamilton clenches his teeth

But Hamilton also admitted that he doesn’t want to see anything like Baku again. “The drivers put their heads together and all but one said it was a problem,” said team manager Wolff. Only veteran Fernando Alonso doesn’t care about the violent shaking of the new cars. Hamilton, on the other hand, said he only made it to the finish in Baku because he “bited his teeth” and the adrenaline helped him. “It looks bad and feels 100 times worse,” he wrote on Instagram.

Teammate George Russell, spokesman for the drivers’ union, has already warned: “It’s only a matter of time before we see a serious incident.” Many drivers find it difficult to keep their cars in a straight line on uneven roads. Hamilton said: “I almost drove into the wall so many times.”

The technical problem of hopping is caused by the vehicles that have changed significantly this season. At high speed, the cars on the straights are pressed onto the ground until they briefly touch the asphalt and are then pushed up again. The drivers are repeatedly shaken violently.

“I need someone to give me a massage tonight. My back really hurts,” said Alpha Tauri pilot Pierre Gasly after the ride through Baku. McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo also warned: “We really have to tackle this problem, because it’s really painful.”

Hot “Hoppel Debate”

The debate about hopping has been raging since the test drives before the start of the season. According to a report in the specialist magazine “Autosport”, the teams could not agree on technical countermeasures such as a minimum ground clearance last year. And even now the racing teams are putting their cars as low as possible, although this promotes hopping, because otherwise they would lose a lot of performance.

“Of course it is a challenge for the drivers. But I think the cars are still pretty comfortable to drive,” said Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto. Meanwhile, Scuderia driver Carlos Sainz is worried about his health. “We should think about the price a driver has to pay in his career,” said the Spaniard. The fact that Sainz and teammate Charles Leclerc left work early because of their technical breakdowns in Baku at least spared the backs of the two Ferrari drivers.

Mercedes driver Hamilton, on the other hand, suffered for 51 laps and begged on the pit radio: “My back is killing me. Let’s change something, please, okay?” The seven-time world champion announced some discussions in the team’s race factory for the coming days. His physical therapist, Angela Cullen, will likely have to continue working overtime. Hamilton also relies on cold therapy to reduce long-term damage. “We have to keep fighting,” said the injured Hamilton. dpa

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