Record crowds are expected to welcome Formula One to Canada after a two-year pandemic hiatus, with the series returning to Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal to try to rectify the pains of Mercedes and its 37-year-old champion.
On Thursday, the FIA finally addressed the “porpoise” effect that has bogged down several of the new 2022 cars, notably Mercedes and seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton.
But F1’s governing body did not act until the Briton was seen cautiously getting out of his car in Baku, Azerbaijan, after three days of bouncing around the circuit.
“My back is killing me!” Hamilton at one point yelled at him over the radio last Sunday.
Both he and teammate George Russell had warned that the bouncing of their cars was endangering their health, and potentially creating a safety hazard, and Hamilton said he completed the race on pure adrenaline.
“That’s the only thing. Just biting my teeth through the pain. Just adrenaline,” she said. “I cannot express the pain you experience. In the end you’re just praying for it to end.”
The posted a photo Thursday of physical therapist Angela Cullen helping him stretch and said that it was the first day that he could go running since the race in Baku. Around the same time, the FIA announced a technical directive that will force teams to lift their cars higher off the ground in an effort to combat rebounding.
The FIA said it decided to intervene “after consultation with their doctors in the interest of driver safety. In a sport where competitors routinely drive at speeds in excess of 300 km/h (186 mph), all a driver’s concentration should be focused on that task and that excessive fatigue or pain experienced by a driver could have significant consequences if it resulted in a loss of concentration.
“In addition, the FIA has concerns regarding the immediate physical impact on the health of drivers, some of whom have reported back pain following recent events.”
Hamilton, who lost the F1 title last year to Max Verstappen in a controversial season finale, has struggled all year with Mercedes’ new car. He is sixth in the standings and has only managed one podium finish, and his younger team-mate Russell often beats Hamilton. The 24-year-old is fourth in the standings with three podium finishes.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner has wondered if Mercedes isn’t going overboard to cover its subpar 2022 car. And others have noted that Mercedes itself could ease the physical toll on Hamilton and Russell through changes to the set-up, alterations contrary to the competitive advantage that the team seeks with its current configurations.
F1 last raced at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in 2019 because the series was unable to compete in Canada for the first two years of the pandemic. The return is the hottest ticket in Montreal and the series is hoping the three-day Canadian Grand Prix weekend will draw the biggest crowd in history.
Tickets for Sunday’s race are sold out and, following the addition of two new grandstands, F1 organizers expect a record 320,000 fans over three days.
F1 heads into its ninth race of the season and jobs are on the line. Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi is one whose future could be decided this weekend.
The Williams driver will compete in his first home grand prix, but there is speculation that Sunday’s could be his last with the team. The Toronto driver has zero points and is 21st in the standings, in a field of 20 cars. Nico Hulkenberg replaced Sebastian Vettel in the first two races this season and overtook Latifi to move higher in the standings.
Latifi has acknowledged that his seat is not safe. It’s a similar situation at Haas, where team principal Guenther Steiner has said second-year driver Mick Schumacher needs to improve.
Schumacher has not scored a point and missed a race due to an accident, and now Schumacher’s supporters argue that the Haas boss’s outspoken criticism of the young German is not helping.
Meanwhile, at McLaren, the only thing that is clear is that Daniel Ricciardo must start running closer to the front.
Both team and driver agree they have a contract until 2023, but boss Zak Brown admitted “mechanisms” each side have that could theoretically free McLaren from retaining the popular Australian next year.
Ricciardo finished eighth last week, one place ahead of team-mate Lando Norris, and has kept his place secure.
“My contracts are clear with the team,” he said in Baku, “until the end of next year I am fully committed. I have certainly expressed that. And obviously now he’s on his way to show it and show these moments and these races that I know I’m capable of.”