Mercedes admit they pushed set-up “too far” after Hamilton’s Azerbaijan GP agony

2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Mercedes have confirmed Lewis Hamilton will participate in the Canadian Grand Prix, despite the pain and numbness he suffered in Baku last weekend.

Chief strategist James Vowles said Hamilton had visited the Mercedes factory in Brackley and confirmed he had recovered from his pain in Azerbaijan.

“I’m pleased to report that the Lewis is here this morning,” said Vowles in a video released by the team. “I’ve spent a few hours with him and he’s okay. He’ll be back in the car in Montreal.

“He’s an elite athlete that will push the bounds of endurance of himself and the car and that’s what Formula 1 drivers do, that’s what makes them exceptional.”

However, Vowles admitted the team had put too great a strain on its driver with the experimental set-up he ran last weekend which led to severe bouncing on the bumpy straight. “On this occasion we pushed the package and our drivers too far. We are putting them into significant discomfort and we simply can’t do that again.”

Hamilton described it as his “most painful race ever”. Early on in the grand prix he warned his team he thought he was going to crash because his car was so hard to control.

Race start, Baku Street Circuit, 2022
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In the latter stages Hamilton said on the radio that his seat had gone cold, despite the race taking place in warm conditions with track temperatures in excess of 45C. Vowles said the cold sensation Hamilton experienced was in fact a consequence of the violent bouncing he suffered.

“I spent a few minutes with Lewis earlier to actually ask him what happened. Nothing really had changed in the car, it just looks like after the amount of pummelling his back had taken from the bouncing, he fundamentally had a numbness that set in and it looks like the cold was a response to that.

“So there wasn’t anything cold in the car. It’s just a response to the amount of endurance and pain he’d been through in the race.”

Vowles pointed out Mercedes was one of several teams whose drivers comments on the poor ride quality they endured in Baku. “Our drivers are not the only ones suffering. You’ll see in the media a number of comments from a number of drivers who are equally in discomfort and pain. And we have a responsibility now to make sure that this doesn’t carry on.”

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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39 comments on “Mercedes admit they pushed set-up “too far” after Hamilton’s Azerbaijan GP agony”

  1. Numbness isn’t a joke I am glad they react to that.

    1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      15th June 2022, 13:14

      The cynics however take anything Lewis does as staged and will dismiss it to the point they will say he is probably just making it all up for the attention and tv coverage. Past history will see to that.

      It is another indication that George is not really getting the better of Lewis but the score board will be all we shall see when the rest is long forgotten.

      1. @Andy
        That’s a double edged sword. You are saying the scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story of how George is ahead yet would probably see Lewis as one of the best due to the 6 titles he has acquired with the Mercedes car?

      2. petebaldwin (@)
        15th June 2022, 13:45

        @andyfromsandy – The cynics have reasons to be that way though…

        If Hamilton had got out of the car holding his back and Toto immediately said “we have to apologise to Lewis – we’re chasing lap time and we pushed things too far with the stiffness of the car. We won’t do that again” then not a single person would be accusing Lewis of faking anything.

        Instead when asked about Lewis and the bouncing, he said “The drivers sat together, and all of them, but one, agreed that something needs to be done, but I don’t know what could be done.”

        According to Vowles, it’s pretty clear what could be done….

        1. When all the drivers but one said, that something needs to be done – how chould Merc than have a solution for this? They can only change things for 2 drivers, but not for the others.

          1. Raise the ride height to protect their driver’s. Simple.

          2. Then 8 teams should do so. Or FIA should release technical regulations which allow teams to use racecars, instead of soapboxes.

            I’d prefer a pinnacle of motorsports series which uses more advanced suspension technologies, than having half of the field kangarooing all over the track. Probably even the Clio Cup beats F1 regarding modern suspension technologies.

          3. They simplified the suspension along with the aero to prevent the teams from exploiting them with loopholes. It will be worth it in the long run, we just need the teams who got it wrong to sort it out. Until then, they can raise the ride height to protect their driver’s.

          4. I simply disagree. Its soapbox racing to oversimplify things like that. Every 2nd streetcar has more advanced suspension technics, and thats not what F1 should be.

          5. Well if you are a Mercedes fan then obviously you would be looking for this. Just like all the other teams would have liked a chance to catch up with engine development from 2014 onwards.
            Raise the ride height.

        2. @petebaldwin I fail to see what point you’re trying to make. Wolff not ‘immediately’ apologising to Hamilton means the latter was faking the pain? That’s some weird logic.

          1. You can’t accuse Pete of applying logic in anything to do with Lewis and Mercedes

    2. Gasly made similar comments risking spinal damage, after the race.

      1. And some drivers have claimed we can’t have this ‘for the next 10 years’ meanwhile RBR haven’t had a significant problem if any at all for even 10 races. Not denying this is an issue for some teams, and I do feel for the drivers, but it is such early days let’s first and foremost give teams a chance under the current regs and caps to sort this for themselves ala RBR.

        1. RBR is Racing with higher rear so they do not have the same problem.all Teams should do the is not a Regulations issue.Mercs falls their concept desing and now want another chance penalizing those who did well.especially Ferrari

        2. @robbie, the teams need to know very soon to plan next years car, they can’t wait and see forever.

      2. Doesnt fit the orange / RBR fans narrative…

  2. petebaldwin (@)
    15th June 2022, 13:34

    It’s nice to see someone being sensible about this for once. No over-dramatisation of the situation and no trying to blame others.

    There is clearly an issue with bumpy circuits and the new regs that needs to be looked at but at the same time, the severe discomfort Lewis was in was largely down to Mercedes pushing things too far. There is a balance to be struck here between lap time and the quality of the ride – they pushed too far towards lap time.

    On the final line, he said “We have a responsibility now to make sure that this doesn’t carry on.” The “WE” part of that is absolutely the key part. The teams have to do their part to make the rides tolerable, they have to discuss ideas with the FIA, the FIA have to look at requesting the resurfacing of tracks, Liberty need to consider if street circuits are suitable etc. This usually all falls apart as everyone argues for something that specifically benefits only them so we’ll see if anything actually changes. I’m far from convinced it will but if more people start talking honestly like James Vowles did above, it’s got much more chance.

    1. I have not seen a specific reference to it (may have been, and I missed it), but do the g-meter sensors they have in the car measure vertical forces as well as lateral? If so, would really be interesting to see a graphic of it during a race.

      1. There was a report during the race that Mercedes was seeing 6G vertical forces on the impacts.

  3. We’ve seen so much and so many reports about the long term physical effects related to brain and back injuries on athletes in others sports like football, rugby and combat sports over the last few years, so why not do the same for racing drivers ??

    1. Not denying what you’re saying about other sports but this is such early days for this issue wrt ‘long-term’ so there is a good chance teams will develop themselves out of this. We have seen it can be done already. Also, it’s track specific. Also, I just remembered this morning that Pirelli had upped the tire pressures for Baku and that couldn’t have helped.

      1. We do have evidence from the 80s concerning this same issue. It grew to the point that in 1983 the FISA had to step in to reduce suspension stiffness and downforce because of the number of drivers complaining of back pain.

        The vertical forces in the spine were found to be able to cause ‘early arthritic changes’, according to a study quoted by Sid Watkins, and unusual forms of disk protrusion.

        1. Really? Why didn’t they just soften the suspension and raise the ride height? Everyone’s saying that’s all that’s needed here, so why did the FIA get all huffy back then?

    2. The FIA should do something as well (as they’ve done for other safety issues). But they should only define parameters and limits.
      They have sensors in the car and can define what vertical impact G-forces and how many/often this is allowed.
      It’s then up to the teams to design and set-up their car around it.

      It’s a bit like the speed limit in the pit lane or the plank under the car: FIA sets the limits, the teams determine how they stay within those limits.

      1. Exactly is a matter of setting limits and Not of changing car concept. Hamilton’s Pain was Mercedes inflicted no FIA fault

  4. However much people decide to believe that a driver is or is not embellishing about some issue is really just that, a degree of belief. Most of the time, you will never know whether a driver is really embellishing given the limited information, but It’s hard to argue that this is one of those cases with Lewis in Baku. When Mercedes has data showing that one of their drivers is sustaining repeated 6G vertical impacts, it’s not difficult to relate that to a realistic situation like, say, a really violent roller coaster that you have to ride 51 times and just deal with it. So the cynics can say what they like depending on which drivers they do or don’t like, but it doesn’t mean much.

  5. greasemonkey
    15th June 2022, 16:00

    I assert the only “fix” is a suite of spec sensors and limits (peak, average, or whatever makes sense via medical pros). Chasing it via car rules (ride height, aero regs, etc) is nonsense.

    Anyone who has raced anything stiff (KF/TaG class karts, etc) on anything even mildly bumpy (almost any US kart track for example), or even not so bumpy if grip is high enough to hop here and there, knows that this can come up throughout the sport.

    I no longer real-life race due to cervical spine issues, precisely from body attrition from racing (both lateral G’s and bumpy violence).

    1. There is no replacing your vertebrae or spinal nerves, you need those for the rest of your life. There is no way any driver dealing with porposing isn’t causing long-term damage, particularly the older drivers. The pace of the car isn’t there, even if the bouncing issues are corrected. If I were Lewis, I would seriously consider calling it a career and head for the exit as the most successful driver in F1 history.

  6. If they admit this is due to a risky set-up, then there’s no need to change any rules or even implement a minimum ride height.

    The other teams are not at fault for Mercedes’ lack of a solution for their porpoising…

    1. I think it’s unfortunate that we have a set of regulations where frankly dangerous set-ups improve performance. That’s not been the case since the early ’80s.

  7. MB has been running different set-ups on Lewis’s and George’s cars to gather data to solve their drivability issues. It appears that Lewis has been testing more extreme, problematic configurations, probably because he has more knowledge and experience. It would be interesting to see how George would cope with the set-ups that Lewis has endured.

      1. It would be interesting for sure. They certainly can scrap LH’s last experiment though…no need for GR to try that one, as if that’s not obvious.

  8. Yes , poor Hamilton. Lets give him an adventage extrasport so he can be compensated for the suffering. After all he is not known for misrepresentating his Situation.

  9. If you know a car bottoming out with 6G impacts you black flag the car since it is not suitable to run for that race. If all cars bottoming out in ONE circuit, you don’t race on it if they don’t re surface it. If ALL CARS bottoming out on ALL CIRCUIT then regulations are not correct. Since RB and some of the teams can run WITHOUT bottoming out almost all circuits up to now, you only need to ban problematic cars. If you ban MB next circuit they will have a car not bottoming guaranteed. And guess what they will stop working this year but next years concept to minimize this next year. And yes RB will win with a dominant car this year until some other team solves the issue.

    1. If and F1 car can have a side impact of 6G on Monaco barriers but ability to continue you don’t make all cars slower to stop one teams car keep hitting barriers. You tell that team to stop doing this or black flag them.

  10. I find it interesting that he was in so much pain that his back went numb and cold and now a couple of days later he’s totally fine. Granted I’m not in shape like Hamilton, but my work messes my back up and I feel it for days after.

    If they are truly serious of taking their drivers health into consideration, they will run a higher ride height.

    1. @lejimster82 He works out continually, has a dedicated physiotherapist and dietician, and no doubt a lot of additional medical care from the team. Plus his body is used to this kind of high-speed stress at some level. I’m not sure any of us is likely to be in a comparable situation in terms of our speed of recovery. A whole season of this could be seriously damaging though. FIA need to be offering a viable solution for next year, like active suspension, it’s not enough to expect them to find a solution. I agree Red Bull deserve to keep their lead for this year and any remedy shouldn’t prejudice their advantage (or not enough to equalise the teams), so forcing teams to raise the ride height or be DSQed if they hit a certain level of stress might be the best option.

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