Drivers have been left divided over the stiff nature of the current generation of Formula 1 cars, with some raising concerns over the long-term health implications since the return of ground effect aerodynamics.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz had initially raised concerns last year when teams were forced to stiffen suspensions to counteract bouncing, or ‘porpoising’, caused by the stalling of airflow under the floor and through the diffuser of the cars.
The Spaniard called for a broader debate on the topic when he questioned the long-term health consequences that drivers could face if subjected to the characteristic stiff bouncing exhibited by the current generation of F1 machinery.
Drivers were given a chance to offer their feedback for future F1 designs, with Lando Norris siding with ex-team-mate Sainz in being among those hoping for changes when the sport’s new technical regulations are introduced in 2026.
“I mean, I would love it. I wouldn’t say no, if we could have softer cars or something that makes it a bit more like it was in ’19, ’20, ‘21,” said the McLaren driver, who previously dismissed Sainz’s concerns in 2022.
“I’ve struggled a lot with my back. I’ve had to make quite a few seats and do a lot more training just to try and strengthen my back, my lower back. I’ve had a lot of issues over the last 12 months or so.”
“I guess everyone’s had different things and struggles with different bits and cars are different and whatever.
“But yeah, for different reasons, but a bit of it including the car and how stiff it is. I’ve struggled quite a bit.”
While other drivers didn’t admit to suffering to the same extent as Norris in the current cars, the idea of change appealed to several.
“The cars are definitely super, super stiff, the stiffest I’ve ever driven and witnessed in my time in F1,” said Nico Hulkenberg who, until 2023, last competed in the series full-time in 2019.
“Most drivers feel it’s something we would like to work on. It also limits you sometimes in races when you want to offset yourself, getting out of dirty air, you can’t use many kerbs because of stiffness.
“So it just limits what you can on lines, racing lines, etc. So, it is tricky. There is some, you know, some difficulties with that for sure.
“Pain, I don’t have [any] but you know, obviously that’s very different, everybody’s built different, everybody has a different seating position. But yeah, they are very, very stiff.”
Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas joked: “My back was already destroyed in 2015, so there’s no feeling anymore, so it doesn’t matter!
“But in the end, everyone will always search for performance versus comfort. You take it, even with not being so comfortable in the car.
“And that would be definitely by the regulations somehow to be improved, not by the teams, because teams wouldn’t go softer if it’s slower.”
Sainz’s Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc differed in opinion saying: “No. For me, I really don’t mind. I don’t know. I’ve never been sensitive to that.
“Even the porpoising wasn’t something that was really disturbing me. I don’t know why. But yeah, for me, it’s fine.”
The 2022 Ferrari F1-75 regularly demonstrated some of the most dramatic porpoising cases throughout the season.
Meanwhile, Sergio Perez also had no back issues to report, claiming he feels as “fresh as when I was 15”.
“I’m lucky in that regard, I guess,” he added. “Certainly the cars are on the stiff side, but I haven’t had any problems.