Following the 2022 Formula One Azerbaijan GP the row over the current car design regulations is hotting up. Following the race Lewis Hamilton was seen struggling for over a minute to extract himself from his car such was the back pain he allegedly suffered during the race.
The Sky F1 anchor Natalie Pinkerton focused on this issue for most of the Sky F1 post race show, asking each driver how they felt about the bouncing nature of the current F1 cars.
An irritated Toto Wolff told Sky F1’s Karen Chandhok, “I think we need to do something on the regulations, because he [Hamilton] can’t move”
The Mercedes boss then suggested that the team had other drivers in the wings to replace Lewis in this weekend’s Canadian GP implying there was a possibility Hamilton was too ‘injured’ to drive the W13 car again in 5 days time.
Monday’s Sky F1 edition of “Any Driven Monday” asked IndyCar driver Danika Patrick her opinion on Hamilton’s apparent poor physical state at the end of the Baku race and she questioned whether Lewis Hamilton was in fact being disingenuous and ‘acting up’ for the cameras.
“For Lewis, the question is did he feel that bad? Is that the reality of what the car did to him or is he making it seem worse than it really is for the purpose of getting a rules change?”
Mercedes are lobbying for changes in the FIA car design regulations. Clearly they will not effect that for this season, but as Toto pointed out these rules are fundamentally the same for the next three years.
It would of course be easier for Mercedes to get the FIA to enforce regulation changes if they can couch them as necessary for driver safety as Patrick observed.
“It’s a political game and if they’re lobbying in some way for rule changes to happen there you want to highlight the reasons that needs to happen”
The current Mercedes W13 problems are different from the ‘porpoising’ they experienced in the first four races of the season. This aerodynamic problem was fixed with the upgrades the Brackley team brought to the Spanish GP.
In fact Paul di Resta repeated regularly on commentary in Baku that Mercedes are in fact choosing to run the car super low – much lower than the Red Bull’s – to make the W13 car faster
Danika Patrick believes there was evidence that Hamilton is part of the decision making process that sets the car up to be quick – but bounce.
“Is it a matter of choosing speed over comfort? Is that why Lewis wasn’t so hard on them [the team] for the way that he felt [at the end of the race] because it’s a choice he was part of making.”
The ex-IndyCar racer also points out that, “Toto is in charge of figuring out how to go fast and have it not hurt their body and he’s aware of that.”
So it really isn’t an issue for the FIA. It’s for Mercedes to design a better car and in the meantime make the decision over a fast car or their drivers welfare.