Since the new rules, the Silver Arrows can no longer run at full speed. If the performances in Catalonia don’t change, a radical solution will be considered.
Plagued by technical issues and performance issues since the start of the Formula 1 season, Mercedes is counting on this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona to finally tame…or change its unique single-seater concept.
It seems a long time ago that Mercedes unabashedly dominated F1. Best team since 2014 and the introduction of hybrid engines, the brand with the star is currently in third place after five races. His boss Toto Wolff is a bit worried: “It’s a bit boring at the moment. We are third parties, in a sense in no man’s land”.
Worst start to the season since 2014
Certainly far ahead of McLaren, 4th team (45 points), Mercedes (95) seems powerless against Ferrari (157) and Red Bull (151), who were able to assert themselves against the new technical regulations. It is by far their worst start to the season since 2014 – a previous worst total after five GPs was 148 points and a 2nd place finish in 2021, just a point behind Red Bull.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton finds himself in sixth place, his worst start to the season with the German team. His new teammate George Russell does a little better in 4th place.
Questioned is the concept of the Mercedes, which, in view of the new regulations of 2022, proposed a car with almost completely reduced pontoons. An aerodynamic solution diametrically opposed to that of Ferrari, for example, which bears no fruit.
“But it’s clear that the car has potential and that it’s fast,” emphasized Toto Wolff after the Miami Grand Prix. “But we just don’t understand how to unleash that potential.”
Difference between simulator and reality
In Florida, Mercedes had started the weekend looking competitive in practice on Friday before going under in qualifying (6th and 12th). Limit breakage during the race (5th and 6th). “There’s just no correlation between what we see on our screens and how drivers feel, and that makes it even more difficult,” explained Wolff.
So the Mercedes W13 would be much more efficient in the simulator than it really is. This is mainly due to a phenomenon that has appeared again this year: the porpoise, which makes the single-seaters wobble on the straights.
All teams have experienced this issue with the return to ground effect sucking the chassis from underneath, but most seem to have fixed it. Not Mercedes. “It’s important to differentiate between two things: on the one hand, the normal improvement program, and on the other hand, solving the problems that we have with rebounds and other things that affect performance,” emphasizes Mike Elliott, Technical Director of Silver Arrows , on the Youtube -Channel of the team.
“The fins we brought[to Miami]really gave us the performance we expected and was a step forward,” he continues, without responding to the porpoise: “To try and get the To understand rebound we have collected a lot of data (…) and as always the engineers are studying this data to understand it better.
A radical alternative remains: to change the concept. To help in this election, Barcelona will be a crucial stretch. At the pre-season tests in Catalonia in February, Mercedes did not rely on the concept without sidepods, but on a more “classic” configuration. “Barcelona will definitely be a time where we can compare what we saw in February” and the current situation, explains the Austrian CEO.
For the time being, Mercedes and his boss are “true to the current concept”: Wolff gives his teams at the Brackley plant in England “the benefit of the doubt”, based on “outstanding cars” that have equipped the trophy cabinets in recent years. But after Barcelona “we will look in the mirror and say to ourselves: are we wrong or not?” suspense and answer on Sunday.
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