How the mighty have fallen. Mercedes Formula One team have won an unprecedented 8 constructors titles in a row but the wheels have come off in Brackley. Interestingly the world champion team’s best results have come in Bahrain and Barcelona where they have significant data from the pre-season tests. At both these venues they were closer to the pole position time and their race pace was better than at other circuits.
The team arrived in Spain buoyant from a test at Paul Ricard that appeared to have resolved their high speed porpoising as evident in the previous race in Miami. Yet the slow speed nature of Monaco the following week revealed the basics of the W13 is not at all sorted.
Mercedes Director of Trackside Engineering Andrew Shovlin explained the apparent step backwards the car made in Monte Carlo.
“Certainly, it was a lot harder to get the car to work around Monaco than it was in Barcelona.
“In Barcelona, we had shown that we had good race pace, even though we know there is still work to do to close the gap to Red Bull and to Ferrari.”
“But the challenge of Monaco is the low-speed nature, it’s a very bumpy circuit and we were struggling with the ride of the car.
“That was affecting the confidence of the drivers to carry speed and it just meant that we couldn’t run it as close to optimum as we had been able to do in Spain.
In Monaco it appeared all the good work on improving the Mercedes W13 had been reversed.
George Russel qualified P6 but was almost 0.8 seconds off the pole position pace. At the first race in Bahrain the differential from the lead Mercedes to Pole was just 0.6 seconds. Hamilton’s performance was even more woeful, he was 1.2 seconds slower than the Ferrari Pole sitter.
Next up this weekend is the Azerbaijan GP in Baku, another street circuit. Whilst this track is significantly different from the low speed Monaco, Mercedes are concerned they will suffer a similar qualifying and race differential as they did in the Principality.
The problem Mercedes have is the upcoming Baku circuit has a section through the Castle which is very Monaco, then there are the high speed sections around the start finish line where the W13 may again find itself bouncing in an extreme fashion.
It seems every race weekend is a test session for the Constructors’ World Champions
Shovlin is hardly optimistic as he explains, ”We are working on areas though to try and improve the ride, try and be able to run the car a bit closer to its optimum window.
Mercedes appear to only be able to solve one problem at a time this season and this is clearly going to hamper them as different circuit characteristics throw up new challenges each time the car goes out to compete.
It is therefore difficult for the team to establish a base configuration for the W13 as Shovlin explains. ”But we are well aware that in addition to adding base performance to the car, we’ve got to make it work over a wider range of circuits.
“So, these are all things that we are busy with in preparation for Baku but also longer-term because there are other challenging tracks that will come up.
“But all of those projects are being worked on really hard because the team and the drivers are desperate to get back to the front.”
Despite their problems, Mercedes George Russell is the only driver in the field to finish in the top 5 at each of the 7 2022 GP. His team mate Lewis Hamilton is languishing 34 points behind his teammate and has already conceded he will not be the driver’s F1 champion this season.