The health of Formula 1 drivers could be damaged by harbor porpoises in the long term, says Carlos Sainz

Carlos Sainz is concerned about his own safety and that of his passengers. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz believes the health of Formula 1 drivers could be at significant risk if intense porpoise killing is allowed to continue.

F1 has returned to ground effect car designs this year for the first time since the 1980s, allowing cars to follow each other more closely and allowing drivers to race harder. So far, the changes seem to be having the desired effect, with Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen engaging in exciting tactical scrambles for the lead in the early laps.

But the aerodynamic shift has introduced a peculiar quirk known as “porpoises,” in which cars bounce intensely at high speeds because the balance of air beneath the floor shifts fore and aft. While some teams have managed to mitigate the problem, drivers’ heads are often seen violently banging back and forth during races. Two races ago at Imola, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and George Russell had to slow down on the straights to protect themselves from the effects of the porpoise.

For 27-year-old Sainz, F1 must ask itself whether the potential health risks from porpoises are worth the improvement in racing.

“As drivers and Formula 1, we have to ask ourselves how much a driver should pay for his back and his health in a Formula 1 career with this kind of car philosophy,” explained Sainz.

“First of all, we have to open the debate. The regulations are great and do exactly what we need for racing, but do we need to keep our necks and backs running as stiff as we’ve had to do with this crowd of cars lately? For me it’s a philosophical question that I might ask of Formula 1 and everyone else to consider how much a driver has to pay with their health in their career to combat this.

“I didn’t have the expert advice. I’ve done my usual checks on my back, neck, tension, etc. and I can see that I’m tighter all over the place this year and I’m already feeling it. “I don’t need expert advice to know that 10 years of this is going to be tough and you need to work a lot on mobility and flexibility and I need to invest in overall body health.”

The bravery so often displayed by athletes in elite sports is one of the reasons the porpoise’s physical effects have not been widely discussed until now, Sainz believes, adding that an open debate would be beneficial.

Australian F1 Grand Prix - Qualifying

Carlos Sainz is fifth in the F1 drivers’ standings after five races (Photo by Peter J Fox/Getty Images)

“It’s probably a question that as drivers we don’t like to watch because we don’t like to sound weak,” said Sainz. “I’m strong, I’m actually very fit. I consider myself one of the fittest drivers and have never struggled in a Formula 1 race. But it’s longer term and maybe for the benefit of all of us, maybe we should post it to talk about it and see what options we have.

“Then there are the interests of the teams, of overtaking, of the show that you have to factor into the equation. But what if we include the driver a bit for the first time? It could be interesting.’

Round six of the 2022 Formula 1 season takes place at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona over the weekend of May 20-22.

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General Sports The health of Formula 1 drivers could be damaged by harbor porpoises in the long term, says Carlos Sainz

Nate Jones

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