The Mercedes AMG F1 team is banking on a new floor for George Russell this Formula One weekend in Belgium, knowing that any performance gain could also trigger a return of porpoising, the team’s single biggest issue from the beginning of this new technical regulation era in the sport.
The Silver Arrows had had to cut back some downforce on their car to get a handle on the troublesome bouncing. But because it didn’t seem to be a big issue at the last few races, Mercedes is now putting some performance back on its car.
The team has brought a small upgrade package for the weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, but Russell admits he can’t 100 per cent rule out the possibility of porpoising returning.
“I think we’ve made a lot of progress in that regard,” he says,
“But we also know that we’ve had to sacrifice a lot of performance to do that. Since we’re going to be pushing the envelope again, we’re obviously under no illusions that porpoising could return.”
“This is a highly competitive sport and we accept that we have to live with that and that might be the best compromise to get the fastest lap,” said the Mercedes driver. “So we’ll have to wait and see, but there’s no doubt that it also depends a bit on the track.”
The underbody upgrade Russell is trying out reduces the load on the edge, which in turn should improve the flow in the diffuser and increase downforce.
Mercedes is also using a revised front wing end panel to improve flow over the wing tip, which should have a positive effect on the rest of the car. The front intake ducts on the underbody, known as ‘floor fences’, have also been revised to work in different conditions.
Mercedes has also reduced the drag of its rear wing to increase speed on the straights. This is important for a good lap time in Belgium.
A low-downforce package is the order of the day for all teams at Spa-Francorchamps. McLaren, however, is being particularly aggressive and, according to the FIA document, has specified eight improved components for the MCL36, with the aim of knocking Alpine out of fourth place in the constructors’ championship.
These include a lower drag rear wing, beam wing and rear corner assembly, all aimed at maximising the aerodynamic efficiency of the parts for the weekend.
The engine cover has also been revised. Due to the lower cooling requirements at Spa, a smaller bodywork has been chosen which should also improve aerodynamic performance.
McLaren has also revised its diffuser for this weekend and changed the rear shape of the underbody to increase the aerodynamic load in this area. The front track bar fairing has also been modified to provide better flow.
A new winglet has also been added at the rear, which should help the airflow and aerodynamic load on the wheel assembly.
Main rival Alpine doesn’t have as much in the bag for Spa: the team has opted to update the rear brake ducts for this weekend to improve the flow to the rear wing, and also made minor changes to the underbody for Spa.