LONDON: Formula One simulators make seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher sick and his Mercedes GP team are investing in the latest technology to make him feel better.
The British-based team said, however, that the problem was not the reason for the 42-year-old German’s disappointing results last season on his comeback to the sport after a three year absence.
“Throughout his career, Michael from time to time has been susceptible to simulator sickness which has affected the length of time that he can spend on a simulator,” Mercedes GP said yesterday.
“This is a relatively common occurrence for many people in all fields of simulator activity including military, aircraft and racing cars.
“Michael has not been disadvantaged as together with his engineers he has made his simulation work effective,” added the team, world champions in 2009 as Brawn GP before being taken over by Mercedes.
Simulators, with every racetrack on the calendar replicated in detail and the driver feeling similar sensations to driving a real car only without the extreme G-forces, have become essential for teams with testing cut back heavily to reduce spending.
McLaren are widely regarded as having the best and 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton, now teamed up with 2009 champion Jenson Button, spent a lot of time in theirs before making his sensational debut in 2007.
Other teams use cockpits raised on hydraulics that buck and judder as drivers respond to the track unfolding on a screen around them.
This year, there are just four pre-season tests, making it harder than ever for inexperienced drivers or those who have been absent for some time, to get mileage.
“The simulator is one of a number of tools which drivers use to prepare for the race weekend and the condition has not adversely affected Michael’s race preparation or his competitiveness with regard to his team-mate,” said Mercedes.
“The situation has been exacerbated by the level of our current simulator technology.
“For many reasons, we have invested in higher-quality and more realistic simulation equipment which will be completed and available for our drivers shortly.”
Schumacher, who won two titles with Benetton in the 1990s before taking another five with Ferrari, is Formula One’s most successful driver with a string of records including 91 victories.
In a dominant career spent racing at speeds in excess of 300kph, and accelerating and braking in seconds, he has not previously been suspected of motion sickness.
However, he made his Formula One debut in 1991, an era when drivers spent far more time pounding around circuits in testing and light years away from the modern “Playstation Generation” who have grown up with computer games and sophisticated electronics.
His best race result last year, when he was beaten regularly by team-mate and compatriot Nico Rosberg, was fourth. Schumacher ended up ninth overall.
Schumacher’s new car, which will carry his hopes of returning to the top of the podium for the first time since 2006, will be unveiled at the Valencia circuit in eastern Spain next Tuesday. — Reuters