Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was forced to apologise to Lewis Hamilton as a result of the latter’s intense back pain over the course of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon. The 37-year-old managed to claim an impressive fourth-placed finish in Baku but was made to work hard due to his Mercedes car bouncing violently on the long home straight.
Hamilton complained of back pain on more than a few occasions during the 51-lap contest but was ultimately able to put the problem to one side and work his way up the order to cross the line in fourth. He went on to receive an immediate apology from Wolff, who conceded that Mercedes still have plenty of ground to make up in his post-race comments via team radio.
“This is a bit of a **** box to drive,” said Wolff. “And sorry for the back problems.”
“Well done, guys,” replied Hamilton. “And well done on the strategy. Thank you on continuing to push, but make some changes, okay? Please. Let’s keep pushing.”
It remains to be seen whether Mercedes will be able to iron out their issues with bouncing on the straights as they look to close the gap to Red Bull and Ferrari in terms of outright performance over the next few weeks. They have struggled with the problem since the start of pre-season testing but appear to have made little progress with regards to finding a solution over the course of the season to date.
Hamilton has previously raised questions over the effects of the bouncing on the long-term health of drivers, while George Russell expressed a similar view when quizzed on the topic at last month’s Spanish Grand Prix.
Wolff even admitted before the start of Sunday’s race that he was unsure if Hamilton would be able to complete all 51 laps on the streets of Baku as a result of the physical pain caused by the issue.
“I don’t think you can suck it up because it’s just really bad for the back,” the Mercedes boss told Sky Sports F1. “I’m not even sure we can go full length with Lewis, it’s based on physical pain. It’s really compressing the spine.
“I think that most of the drivers have now come to the conclusion that it’s really bad. It’s the moment now to say that is a real issue and what can we do to lift everybody up.”
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