Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles has revealed that Sir Lewis Hamilton had taken such a beating in Baku that his back felt numb at the end.
Hamilton and team-mate George Russell suffered from a lot of bottoming out in Azerbaijan last weekend as a lot of cars began to feel the impact of the long straights, coupled with the low ride height as a result of the ground effect aerodynamics.
On his way to a fourth-placed finish, Hamilton got on the radio to tell his team that his seat had started to feel cold, and Vowles was asked during Mercedes’ YouTube debrief if he knew exactly why that was.
In the end, the severe back pain the seven-time champion experienced was a fundamental cause of it.
“It’s a good question in as much as I didn’t have an answer until I spent a few minutes with Lewis earlier to actually ask him,” said Vowles.
“What happened is nothing really had changed in the car, it just looks like after the amount of pummelling his back had taken from the bouncing, he fundamentally had a numbness that set in.
“And it looks like the cold was a response to that, so there wasn’t anything colder in the car, it was just a response to the amount of endurance and pain he had been through in the race.”
The Briton went on to explain that, having soled the “porpoising” issue in Barcelona, the Silver Arrows subsequently felt able to run the car at a lower ride height.
The result of this lower centre of gravity was the floor being closer to the track surface and, on bumpy tracks like Monaco and Baku, this is always going to cause a lot of bouncing.
“There is definitely a track-by-track element,” explained Vowles.
“And there is a function of how smooth the tarmac is and the layout of the circuit.
“I would say Baku, of the circuits we’ve had so far is on the worse end of it and, conversely, Barcelona probably on the better end of it.
“So, those two circuits definitely will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the package.
“But it’s also worth putting a little bit of time into explaining ‘porpoising,’ bouncing, bottoming.
“Three words possibly being spoken a lot with a little bit of association of being the same thing, but they’re not quite.
“We definitely suffered ‘porpoising’ in the earlier races, and in Barcelona we didn’t.
“We’ve made a tremendous amount of effort on our package to make sure that we tried our best to resolve it and I’m confident we’ve made a step.
“In Barcelona, the car was stable, robust and we could lower it, and that’s the key.
“We managed to create a package where aerodynamically we could work with it a lot more; we could work the setup, we could drop the car in terms of ride height, producing performance.
“Come now to Monaco and Baku, what that unfortunately uncovered is a second issue that was being masked by the first.
“I’m confident that we’ve made a step forward in terms of ‘porpoising’ but we very clearly have bouncing.
“And to the outside, it looks almost identical but there’s a subtle difference between the two.
“What’s happening now is the car is lower as a result of the first issue but now hitting the deck quite hard.
“And that’s creating the bouncing that you see at the moment.
“Again, you try and extract performance by running the car lower but the bumpier the track, the more the input is clearly having an effect which is what you saw in Baku.
“I think what’s clear is that we still have a long journey in front of us to learn everything we need to to be fighting at the front.
“But perhaps more importantly, you will… see performance variation track-on-track as we go forward.
“Canada for sure will be very different to Silverstone in terms of how our car performs.”
Hamilton has recently assured fans that, despite the pain he went through in Baku, he is all good to go racing this weekend in Canada.