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George Russell, Mercedes W13
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Special feature

The concerning human cost of porpoising that F1 overlooked

The stiff, relatively crude suspension of the latest F1 cars is combining with the porpoising problem to create a dangerous scenario for drivers’ health, says STUART CODLING

Last month our cover feature on Mercedes’ various woes made it very clear that the porpoising phenomenon was well-known in the previous era of ground-effect aerodynamics. Another troubling historic consequence of generating downforce through underbody airflow is now coming into focus: its effect on driver health.

In 1982, the peak of the last ground-effect era, teams ran their cars as low and stiff as possible in order to attain peak downforce and reduce pitch sensitivity. Williams even went so far as testing an FW08 at Paul Ricard with no suspension movement (rumours abounded that the Lotus 91 would feature no suspension at all, though this didn’t come to pass). Alan Jones, the world champion, quickly identified that while the performance gain was worthwhile, some way would have to be found to mitigate the physical effects on the driver.

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