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Wolff cites brain damage fears from bouncing

NEWS STORY
02/08/2022

Seeking the implementation of the regulation aimed at eliminating bouncing from next season, Toto Wolff has warned of the risk of brain damage to drivers as a result of the phenomenon.

As the majority of the teams continue to oppose the recently announced change to the 2023 regulations, which would see floor edges raised by 25mm, along with the raising of the underfloor diffuser throat, the FIA is looking to push the change through on safety grounds.

Those teams opposing the move cite a number of reasons including the lateness of the change - many of them having already started work on their 2023 cars - the costs involved and also the feeling that the move is being made to benefit just one team.

In France, and again in Hungary, FIA president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem sought feedback from the teams and drivers, and while some teams have agreed to a compromise that would see floors raised by just 10mm there remains the fear that the FIA will continue to push ahead citing concerns over safety.

Amidst talk of a legal challenge should the FIA press ahead with the move, it has been revealed that in his efforts to convince the sport's governing body of the need for the change Toto Wolff discussed a report on the medical effects of the bouncing with Ben Sulayem at the weekend.

"There's all this talk of lobbying in either direction, but I think fundamentally, what are we talking about?" said the Mercedes boss, according to Motorsport.com.

"The FIA has commissioned medical work on the porpoising," he revealed. "The summary of the doctors is that frequency of 1-2Hz, sustained over a few minutes, can lead to brain damage... we have 6-7Hz over several hours.

"So the answer is very easy, the FIA needs to do something about it."

"I think we need to be very careful when we speak about safety grounds," argues Ferrari's Laurent Mekies. "I think we were all in this room last time we discussed it and that was for the Halo, these sort of things.

"I think you need to separate that from the discussions we are having with teams, with the FIA, on how to make situations better for the porpoising and in that context, the TD is doing a good job. The TD is effectively putting more pressure on the teams to operate their car far away from the proposing. It is also putting more emphasis on checking legality for plank wear. All of these things, all of these tools that the FIA has and is doing a good job at it to make sure that we don't play too close to the boundaries but it's not very different to what it was 10, 20, 30 years ago and if you run your car to low you will get your driver uncomfortable, you will get your plank illegal and you will get thrown out of the race.

"As far as we are concerned it's an issue that pretty much has disappeared, we are now dealing with it as a completely normal set of items. If you have the issue you raise your car, if you don't have it you could bring the car lower as we have done for quite a few decades now."

Though the bouncing has not been as evident of late, and, as George Russell points out, Mercedes is now finishing just 10s behind the leaders, as opposed to sixty, Wolff insists that it remains an issue.

"I still fundamentally believe that there is no choice for the FIA and for us to do something," he said. "I don't want to have it in Spa, or at some of the later races where the track is not as smooth as on a conventional racetrack, and we haven't done anything, and people say: 'well, now it's too late'.

"The argument is we haven't had any porpoising and bouncing in the last few races. But it doesn't count because Silverstone, Paul Ricard, and Austria aren't exactly tracks that we bounce at anyway."

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1. Posted by kdxrider, 03/08/2022 15:01

"I was surprised to see this article because I was going to comment on the current trend of various sports concerning brain injuries from concussions in another thread. Most main stream sports that this effects have well known programs in place now to support injured athletes. I've always wondered about what happens to a driver's brain when they come to a sudden stop from well over 180 mph. The high oscillations the driver's were/are experiencing now wouldn't be much different for a brain injury to happen "

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2. Posted by Spindoctor, 03/08/2022 12:39

"@Endre please clarify where you got this 25mm ride-height increase from, as I seem to have missed that one - easily done given the misinformation rife in F1.
Are you referring to the flexiplank changes?"

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3. Posted by kenji, 03/08/2022 2:28

"@Superbird....typical Wolff doublespeak. An exercise in trying to link the FIA to a decision that he could make totally independently. Most of the other teams seem to have cured, or at least reduced, the problems without FIA/Mercedes intervention!"

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4. Posted by Superbird70, 02/08/2022 17:46

""I still fundamentally believe that there is no choice for the FIA and for us to do something," he said."

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5. Posted by kenji, 02/08/2022 15:21

"Just to be clear about this...Wolff proclaims [ via the FIA ] to have medical evidence to suggest that drivers, in his case, Mercedes drivers are being subjected to dangerous levels of 'oscillations' yet he refuses to take action until the FIA introduce new rules? Surely that is dereliction of his role as TP! Why is he waiting for the FIA to act? Is that simply because he is putting results ahead of driver safety? That's how it appears to me ATM."

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6. Posted by Endre, 02/08/2022 15:19

"Nobody is against reducing bouncing and forcing teams to comply. The big issue is the way they go about it and the proposed 25mm ride height increase that was introduced by the former Merc employee and which miraculously helps Toto&Co. The FIA should only monitor metrics on this and leave it to the teams how they comply. "

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7. Posted by Spindoctor, 02/08/2022 13:44

"Some Teams to "oppose" this, but there is extensive medical evidence from other Sports (assuming F1 still warrants that description) that repeated rapid acceleration\deceleration of the head\brain can lead to early-onset dementia. Retired Boxers, Football (Soccer), American "Football" & Rugby ex-players have shown various symptoms.

I appreciate that there will be some who consider taking preventative action a bit "woke". That attitude was the response to various improvements to driver safety from the 1960's onwards. I doubt today's drivers would want to go back to the sort of bravura & unecessary bravery of those bygone days....."

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8. Posted by Mad Matt, 02/08/2022 11:10

"If I were one of the teams I might say 'OK, I agree this is an important safety issue, I therefore need more wind tunnel and testing time to fix it.... force majeure and all....' :-)"

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