George Russell has doubled down on his calls for Formula 1 to address the “safety limitation” in its new-design 2022 cars, declaring it’s only a matter of time before the chassis bouncing phenomenon, also known as porpoising, results in a significant crash.
Russell spoke out on Friday against the physical toll the bouncing was taking on drivers in Baku, where the long front straight is triggering the phenomenon for virtually all teams to varying extents, more severely than at any circuit this season so far.
Mercedes is arguably the worst affected, with the car intermittently scraping along the ground down the straight as well as moving up and down on its suspension. But after qualifying sixth and 1.3s off the pace on Saturday, Russell said the experience of the car on the limit was so extreme that a crash owing to the bouncing was inevitable.
“I think it’s just a matter of time before we see a major incident,” he said. “A lot of us can barely keep the car in a straight line over these bumps.
“We’re going around the last two corners at 300 kilometers per hour (186mph) bottoming out — you can visibly see on the tarmac how close the cars are running to the ground.
“I’m being shaken to pieces. I can barely see where to brake at the end of the straight because we’re bouncing around so much. For sure the bottoming’s been extreme … it’s just brutal out there.”
Russell acknowledged that several teams have made better compromises between performance and driver comfort, but he felt that the compromise itself was unnecessary when there were possible regulatory solutions to shortcut the sport past the safety risk of extreme bouncing.
“We’re now so close to the ground to get the maximum aerodynamic benefits, and it’s just brutal out there,” he said. “It’s sort of just unnecessary with the technology that we have. In today’s environment it just seems unnecessary that we’re running a Formula 1 car at over 200 miles an hour millimeters from the ground.
“It’s a recipe for disaster. I don’t really know what the future holds, but I don’t think we can sustain this for three years or how long these regulations are in force for.”
Russell admitted, however, that his team wasn’t as keen as he is to change the rules to solve the bouncing, noting that other teams haven’t had their speed as detrimentally affected as Mercedes despite the porpoising.
“For what it’s worth, we’re not as massively in favor of it as a team because every race we do we’re learning more and more about the car, and any changes are going to limit that learning,” he said. “It’s clearly just a safety limitation.
“I don’t think we’re the only car. I think probably half of the grid are in the same boat. Frustratingly, probably Ferrari are in the same boat, but they somehow seem to make it work.
“Let’s see. Everybody’s working super hard to try and resolve these issues.”