Lando Norris Is Having Back Problems at 23 Because of Modern F1 Cars
The young McLaren driver does a lot less golfing and cycling these days due to back pain caused by porpoising.
Porpoising was the headline issue of last year’s Formula 1 cars. It led to very obvious consequences for the health of the drivers, most notably with Lewis Hamilton’s comments and visible pain after the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Despite updated anti-porpoising regulations for 2023, drivers are still struggling with their physical wellbeing—even the young McLaren star Lando Norris.
Norris said that he suffered "constant pain" from the 2022 McLaren chassis and still faces it with the updated 2023 car, according to quotes shared by Motorsport.com. He has to "stretch every morning and evening, [and] before every session" to avoid back pain. The issue is severe enough that Norris has made lifestyle changes as a result: much less golfing, shorter pre-race track walks (he "struggles a lot" with them), and less cycling. Norris, if you need a reminder, is just 23 years old.
Porpoising has been largely diminished by the 2023 rule changes, which include adjustments to the floor edges, raised diffuser throat, more floor edge stiffness, and stricter minimum ride height rules. This has helped prevent underbody stalling, which is the primary mechanism of porpoising. These modern cars depend on running low to the ground to generate more downforce, forcing teams to push the limits of cars and drivers in search of ever-quicker lap times.
However, while the 2023 changes helped reduce porpoising, 2022's simplified suspension regulations also still contribute to the problem. Prior to last season, F1 cars could run complex cross-linked suspension arrangements with inerters that offered good ride quality and a stable aero platform. Unfortunately for the drivers, the current cars were banned from using anything of the sort in an effort to reduce costs and boost overtaking.
The 2023 machines can still porpoise; the bigger problem is those simplified suspension rules. Teams have to run the car low to get and support F1 downforce, which in turn means the car has to be mechanically stiff. Some crews have addressed the issue better than others. Based on Norris' complaints, it seems McLaren still has a ways to go.
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