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F1: George Russell complains of ‘porpoising’ pain in Mercedes at Imola

George Russell has said he suffered back and chest pain during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix as a result of the “porpoising” problem disproportionately affecting Mercedes and warned drivers across the grid could not keep going until the end of the season if the issue persisted.

Russell managed to finish fourth at Imola having started 11th but his Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton, endured a frustrating and fruitless race in 13th, and the ignominy of being lapped by the race winner Max Verstappen, leaving the team principal Toto Wolff to describe Hamilton’s car in particular as “undriveable”.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen crosses the line to win the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola.
Verstappen closes gap to Leclerc after easing to Emilia Romagna F1 GP victory
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The Mercedes is still suffering from the porpoising – the violent bouncing on the straight caused by the ground-effect aero unloading and loading – that has stymied their car’s performance all season. At Imola it was particularly severe. In order to mitigate it, Mercedes have to compromise their set-up, which affects tyre grip and downforce and has knock-on issues across the car.

“The bouncing, it really takes your breath away. It’s the most extreme I’ve ever felt it,” Russell said. “I really hope we find a solution and I hope every team struggling with the bouncing finds a solution, because it’s not sustainable for the drivers to continue. This is the first weekend I’ve truly been struggling with my back, and almost like chest pains from the severity of the bouncing.”

Verstappen won with a commanding drive from pole position and with teammate Sergio Pérez sealed Red Bull’s first one-two finish since Malaysia in 2016. With Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc making an unforced error late in the race and spinning off, he could manage only sixth and Verstappen was able to close the championship gap to Leclerc to just 27 points from the 46 it had been at the start of the weekend.

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Verstappen ‘back on track’ after Emilia Romagna GP win as F1 rivals reflect on failings – video
Russell, meanwhile, benefited from three cars going off at turn one on the opening lap, moving up to sixth. He later passed Haas’s Kevin Magnussen with a good move on track and ultimately finished in fourth. Behind him Hamilton endured his worst weekend of the season.

Wolff, however, has insisted that Hamilton would be swiftly back to his combative self, seeking to make the difference with the team and emerge stronger than ever.

“The guy is the best driver in the world and he is not having a machine and equipment underneath him to be able to execute,” Wolff said. “In a way its irrelevant whether you come in eighth, or 12th or 15th, it doesn’t matter – it’s all bad. But the real stars they recover, there is none of the truly great ones that didn’t have certain moments in their careers where things didn’t run properly. That is the case now with him and he is going to help the team sort it out. We will stick together through good and bad days and Sunday was certainly a very bad day.”

Without scoring a point at Imola Hamilton is now 58 points behind championship leader Leclerc. The seven-time champion admitted this weekend that his hopes of competing for the title this season were already over, with only four races gone. He was disappointed with his race on Sunday but said he had endured lower moments in his career. However he did concede that given the team’s current woes he was not looking forward to the next round, F1’s much-hyped debut in Miami.

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