Raising safety concerns is not new to Formula 1 (F1) drivers. Iconic greats like Niki Lauda and Ayrton Senna both ominously voiced safety concerns when the sport was much more dangerous than it is now. However, driver and team safety is a number one concern for the sport, so authorities should take worries seriously. Carlos Sainz of the venerable Scuderia Ferrari is the latest to speak about his concerns.
Why is Carlos Sainz concerned?
Sainz recently raised the issue of long-term driver health and well-being. Specifically, his concerns are related to the strain on F1 drivers’ necks and backs with the enhanced downforce performance of the latest cars. Sainz says that he is concerned about his own neck and back pain, as well as fellow drivers.
Carlos Sainz said that he is worried about the long-term impacts of the stresses generated by the cars. “We need to consider how much of a toll a driver should be paying for his back and health in a Formula One career,” Sainz told ESPN.
Why is this problem a concern for Carlos Sainz and other drivers?
According to ESPN, some of the latest technical regulations relax restrictions on the shape of vehicles’ undersides. Consequently, teams can now squeeze maximum downforce from the underside aerodynamics. For cars that already push the boundaries of aerodynamic capacity, the move means even more grip.
Furthermore, F1 teams are pairing the move with stiffening tweaks to the suspension to maximize performance and mechanical grip. The result of the aerodynamic and mechanical grip enhancements is a car that puts extra stress on the driver.
Moreover, ESPN says that the latest versions of the cars “bounce” at high speeds. The bouncing, or porpoising, is caused by a momentary lapse in underfloor aerodynamics with the adjusted vehicles. Consequently, there are already reports of pain from drivers like Mercedes-Benz’ George Russell related to porpoising. Russel complains of similar pain and stiffness to Carlos Sainz’s and his discomfort after driving the adjusted racecars.
Is F1 doing anything to address Carlos Sainz’s complaints?
F1 made the latest regulatory modifications to increase the cars’ aerodynamic properties. Additionally, F1 hopes to create more theatre in the sport by closing the gaps between the vehicles by lessening airflow from the rear of the cars. The result of lower airflow coming off of the back of the cars is closer following distances and potentially more exciting overtakes. However, it is unlikely that F1 will make any immediate moves to rectify the driver complaints without an investigation.
How safe are the F1 cars?
F1 cars are, despite the latest driver complaints, much safer than they once were. Although the cars are faster, they are also much more advanced. Gone are the days of Jim Clark sliding his Lotus through a corner. Instead, cars are so grippy that they have the potential to cause driver discomfort, like in the case of Carlos Sainz and George Russel.
Furthermore, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) is an organization devoted to the safety and integrity of the sport. The FIA pays close attention to safety issues, driver infractions, and track conditions to ensure that the sport is as safe as possible. However, as important as safety is, racing is inherently dangerous, and F1 drivers are on the very edge of automotive competition.
If you want to read about Carlos Sainz’s teammate and his impressive car collection, scroll down to the following article.