George Russell accuses F1 rivals of prioritising ‘performance over safety’ after Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc criticise FIA bouncing intervention



The Formula One paddock have given their thoughts on the FIA's plans to tackle the porpoising that has afflicted the cars this season

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The Formula One paddock have given their thoughts on the FIA’s plans to tackle the porpoising that has afflicted the cars this season

The Formula One paddock have given their thoughts on the FIA’s plans to tackle the porpoising that has afflicted the cars this season

George Russell has accused other drivers of prioritising “performance over safety” after Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc said they were opposed to the FIA’s mid-season attempt to combat the extreme bouncing of some cars.

The FIA on Thursday issued a technical directive to F1 teams explaining plans to limit the level of “vertical oscillations” experienced by drivers amid fears over safety.

The move follows various types of bouncing, including the phenomenon of ‘porpoising’, leading to severe discomfort for several drivers, most notably Russell’s Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who needed help getting out of his car due to severe back pain at the end of last weekend’s Azerbaijan GP.

The issue has been an unexpected consequence of F1’s all-new design regulations for 2022, with plans to enable more wheel-to-wheel racing leading to cars being run lower to the ground and with greater stiffness.

The sport’s governing body is set to conduct research during practice sessions at this weekend’s Canadian GP in an attempt to establish an acceptable level of bouncing, with the limit to be implemented at an as of yet unspecified date.

Lewis Hamilton was clearly in pain getting out of his car after his Mercedes suffered more porpoising issues in Azerbaijan, prompting Toto Wolff to apologise to him

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Lewis Hamilton was clearly in pain getting out of his car after his Mercedes suffered more porpoising issues in Azerbaijan, prompting Toto Wolff to apologise to him

Lewis Hamilton was clearly in pain getting out of his car after his Mercedes suffered more porpoising issues in Azerbaijan, prompting Toto Wolff to apologise to him

All 20 drivers addressed the media ahead of Friday’s opening practice session in Montreal, with the consensus being that action is required to protect the safety of drivers.

However, Red Bull’s Verstappen and Ferrari’s Leclerc, who have shared seven victories across eight races this season, said they were opposed to the idea that teams should be forced to alter their setup if the drivers are content with the physical challenges.

“There are a lot of sports out there where I think you damage your body in general,” said Verstappen, who is 21 points clear at the top of the world championship standings. “Once you are retired from your career, you won’t be how you were when you were 20, that is simply how it is.

Max Verstappen says the FIA are wrong to make a rule change mid season to reduce porpoising as he believes it is only affecting teams that are pushing over the limit

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Max Verstappen says the FIA are wrong to make a rule change mid season to reduce porpoising as he believes it is only affecting teams that are pushing over the limit

Max Verstappen says the FIA are wrong to make a rule change mid season to reduce porpoising as he believes it is only affecting teams that are pushing over the limit

“Football players have problems with their knees. When you’re a Motocross or a MotoGP rider, the amount of bones they’ve broken in their body, you can always judge. Is that the safest thing to do? No, but we are willing to take risks, that’s our sport, that’s what I love to do.

“For sure, the porpoising we have at the moment is not nice and I don’t think it’s correct, but some teams are able to handle these things a lot better than others, and so it is possible to get rid of it, so I don’t think we need to overdramatise what is happening at the moment.”

Leclerc, who has largely been able to match Verstappen for speed but has been plagued by reliability problems with his Ferrari engine, agreed with his rival.

Charles Leclerc says he still believes Ferrari can fight Red Bull for the World Championship ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc says he still believes Ferrari can fight Red Bull for the World Championship ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix

Charles Leclerc says he still believes Ferrari can fight Red Bull for the World Championship ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix

“I don’t completely agree on my side,” said Leclerc, who is third in the world championship. “I feel like it’s the team’s responsibility to give me a car that is OK to drive.

“Until now, I didn’t have any particular problems with it. Yes, it is stiffer than last year’s car.

“Whether it’s undriveable or very hard on myself, I don’t think it is, or at least personally. On our side, we found solutions to make it better.”

Russell: There are a lot of mixed agendas

Russell, who has performed impressively in his debut season with Mercedes despite the team being one of the worst impacted by bouncing, praised the FIA for taking swift action but described the measures as “more of a sticking plaster than the solution”.

The 24-year-old Brit, who is also director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, then appeared to criticise the attitude of his rivals, pointing to examples of Leclerc’s Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz and both Red Bull drivers having complained about bouncing earlier in the season.

George Russell believes all teams should prioritise driver welfare over performance following the FIA introducing measures to control porpoising

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George Russell believes all teams should prioritise driver welfare over performance following the FIA introducing measures to control porpoising

George Russell believes all teams should prioritise driver welfare over performance following the FIA introducing measures to control porpoising

“There’s obviously a lot of mixed agendas here from different teams and drivers,” Russell said.

“We’ve heard it from Carlos at times, and Checo (Sergio Perez) and Max earlier in the season how bad it’s been, but now that their performance seems to be strong, they obviously don’t want to change because it can only hinder them.

“So it’s obviously a bit of a shame to see performance prioritised over safety, but there’s no doubt that in Baku, I could see my pit board but I couldn’t read my pit board because I was bouncing around so much.”

Seven-time world champion Hamilton, whose participation in Canada was briefly in doubt due to his struggles in Baku, also appeared to offer a coded criticism of some of his rivals.

Lewis Hamilton says he is grateful the FIA are taking the porpoising issue seriously and it is a step in the right direction

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Lewis Hamilton says he is grateful the FIA are taking the porpoising issue seriously and it is a step in the right direction

Lewis Hamilton says he is grateful the FIA are taking the porpoising issue seriously and it is a step in the right direction

“It’s always interesting seeing people’s perspectives and opinions in different lights. Obviously, in front of you it’s one thing and sometimes in the background people say different things.

“Ultimately, I think safety is the most important thing, and I think at least one driver on every team has spoken on it and I don’t think it’s going to change a huge amount, but I think there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.

“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 forward.”

Brundle: Teams will have to find their own solutions

Sky Sports F1’s Martin Brundle gave his analysis of the situation on Friday.

The FIA are not really providing a solution. What they are putting in place is some tests to make the teams find a solution. We have got 10 amazing teams in Formula 1 with some of the best technical brains in the world and lots of facilities, resource and budget available to them. They are all struggling to find a way to stop the cars from porpoising and bouncing with the suspension and aerodynamics.

The FIA are not suddenly going to turn up with a piece to fit on the cars that is going to solve the problem because the underneath of all 10 teams in the field are dramatically different. The teams will have to find the solutions in the end. It’s four pages and it looks to me like it will be quite difficult to come up with the metric. What is going to be the new limit of bouncing that’s tolerable?

Sky F1's Ted Kravitz explains why the FIA's rule changes designed to combat porpoising could potentially work against Mercedes

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Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz explains why the FIA’s rule changes designed to combat porpoising could potentially work against Mercedes

Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz explains why the FIA’s rule changes designed to combat porpoising could potentially work against Mercedes

What I suspect is we are going to be hearing quite a lot less now from drivers and teams about this issue because the FIA will say, ‘clearly your car is a problem and is dangerous’.

Some teams have got it right – the McLaren doesn’t bounce much and the Red Bull doesn’t – others are hitting the ground hard. Seven or eight races into the season you can’t come up with another set of rules. This is not about the lowest common denominator, it’s about excellence. Those teams that haven’t got it right need to get it right. They will have to give up performance until they do so.

My experience of these things when we have big changes is the teams get around it quite quickly. I don’t think it will change things a whole lot, but I can see it playing into Red Bull’s hands.

It’s such a complex issue, it would be wrong of me to pretend I know all the answers. It’s a hugely complex problem and that’s why these great teams are struggling to sort it out.

On the face of it, it could harm Mercedes. It looks like they’ve got one of the biggest problems with the bouncing and their drivers are the most unhappy, so if the FIA, by whatever metric they come up with, decides Mercedes are bouncing too much and too hard and hurting the drivers’ backs, they will have to raise it and give away performance. Mercedes said this week themselves they pushed the car too hard and their drivers too hard last weekend in Azerbaijan.





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