Hamilton doubts he would have met FIA extraction time with back pain

Lewis Hamilton says he doesn’t think he could have got out of his F1 car within the required FIA extraction time due to how bad his back pain was at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. 
Lewis Hamilton (GBR)
Lewis Hamilton (GBR)

Hamilton described Baku as “the toughest race” of his F1 career after the seven-time world champion was left gingerly hobbling away from his Mercedes car after experiencing severe lower back pain for 51 laps. 

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff initially raised concerns that Hamilton could be a doubt for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, but the Briton has recovered in time thanks to acupuncture and physio. 

Hamilton revealed he had experienced forces up to G10s in his cockpit as a result of the extreme bouncing over the bumps in Baku. 

“I don’t think so at that time, no,” Hamilton replied when asked if he felt he would have been able to meet the FIA’s 10-second extraction time if needed. 

“It was excruciatingly painful at the time, so I’m just grateful I was able to get out, but definitely not speed at you’re supposed to.” 

The FIA has now issued a technical directive to teams setting out how it plans to reduce the porpoising phenomenon. 

Hamilton doubts he would have met FIA extraction time with back pain

Hamilton said he was pleased by the FIA’s swift response and insisted that driver safety must be “paramount”. 

“I can definitely feel that I’m a little bit shorter this week,” Hamilton joked in reference to his back pain. “My discs are definitely not in the best shape right now and that’s not good for longevity.

“There are things that we can do to improve that for all the drivers. We want to arrive, do our job, put on a great show and race the safest we can. There is no need for us to have long-term injuries. 

“We just need to work closely with the FIA, not take it lightly, and continue to pursue it.”

Mercedes 'unable to run car any higher' 

Critics have suggested that teams suffering the worst from the bouncing do have options open to them to reduce porpoising. 

Speaking after the race in Baku, Red Bull’s Christian Horner highlighted how teams could opt to run their cars higher to protect their drivers and inferred they are reluctant to take the subsequent hit to their performance. 

But Hamilton insisted Mercedes cannot raise the ride height of their car any more, even if they wanted to. 

“In the last race and previous races, we have raised the car, and you still have bouncing,” he explained. 

Hamilton doubts he would have met FIA extraction time with back pain

“Porpoising, it’s more about the flow structure underneath the car - so we run the car very high most season and it’s not until Barcelona that we started to be able to get it a little bit lower and we had no bouncing for the first time in Barcelona, except for the high-speed corners.

“Even when we raised the car, this thing still bounces. And we can’t go any higher, actually. We’re limited by the rear suspension now.

“So we do lose performance naturally when you do go higher but this porpoising is caused by the disrupted flow underneath the car.”

The 37-year-old also admitted to having “a lot more headaches” this season but said he has just been taken painkillers to combat the issue. 

Asked whether concerns over his long-term health could prompt him to call time on his F1 career early, Hamilton, whose current deal runs until the end of 2023, replied: “Well, I imagine we’re going to get this fixed by the end of next year, at least.

“Hopefully that’s not going to be something that’s going to deter me from racing longer. But… time will tell.”

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