The 2022 Formula 1 season has gotten off to an exciting start. Ferrari and Red Bull have been battling it out at the top of the grid, with the latter's reliability problems adding to the intrigue.
It looks all set for a long duel between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen for the driver's championship, and while it is unlikely to match what we saw in 2021, it should make for compelling viewing.
Of course, the races have also been made a bit more exciting by some rule changes in the sport. Overtaking is now more common after an alteration to the regulations. The most important changes include more emphasis on ground-effect aerodynamics, also reducing the ride quality by simplifying the suspension.
This may have made for more exciting racing, but it has also added to the wear and tear suffered by the drivers. Porpoising has been a big issue, with a number of drivers already complaining the way their cars have been bouncing on track.
Carlos Sainz believes a discussion needs to be had on how rules changes within the sport have the potential to affect the long-term health of drivers.
Speaking ahead of this weekend's Spanish GP, the Ferrari driver said a debate needs to be open on protecting drivers as well as improving car performance.
I think we need to, as drivers and Formula 1, [consider] how much of a toll a driver should be paying for his back and his health in a Formula 1 career with this kind of car philosophy.
We need to open the debate more than anything to see if… I think the regulations are great. They’re doing exactly what we needed for racing. But do we need to run as stiff for our necks and back as we are having to run lately with this car mass?
For me it’s more of a philosophy question that I put out there maybe for Formula 1 and everyone to rethink about how much the driver needs to actually pay a price in his career with his health in order to combat this.
Some drivers have been complaining about the affect the current generation of cars have been having on their backs and necks, not a good sign when we are only five events into a long racing calendar.
Teams will hope to ease these issues as the season goes on, although how much they can do so without lowering the performance remains to be seen.
Sainz admits that he has already felt the toll of the 2022 cars on his body, something that had not been the case in seasons gone by.
I’m already feeling it I don’t need expert advice to know that if I have ten years like this, it’s going to be tough, I’m going to need to work a lot in mobility, flexibility and I’m going to need to invest in health overall body health.
It’s probably a question that I think as drivers we don’t like talking much because we don’t like sounding weak.
I’m strong, I’m very fit, I consider myself one of the fittest drivers and I’ve never struggled in a Formula 1 race at all.
But it’s more long term and for the benefit of all of us, maybe we should put it out there to talk about and see what options we have.
Then there’s the interests of the teams of the overtaking, of everything, of the show, that you need to factor in the equation.
But what if we for the first time factor in also a bit the driver? I think it could be interesting.
This weekend's grand prix in Barcelona could be the most interesting of the season yet, with a number of teams set to reveal major overhauls to their cars.
The results of that should be very interesting to see on the track, although it seems rather doubtful that it will address this particular issue.