Nearing the end of the 2022 F1 season, with just 6 races to go, the consecutive 8 times F1 world championship winning team from Brackley is yet to win a race. There have been a number of occasions where the Silver Arrows drivers and management have felt they have ‘turned a corner’ only to find another immediately in front of them. Now Mercedes technical guru believes Mercedes were “overly optimistic” about how good their car really was.
The team’s lack of performance has been masked by delivering 8 podiums in the last 9 races, though Ferrari have with their woes contributed to this relative success.
In qualifying Mercedes average deficit to pole position has only once been under half a second and that was in Zaandvoort. Of course George Russell famously grabbed pole position in Hungary due to changeable conditions.
The Silver Arrows began the year with extreme proposing issues, though these were predictable given the previous era of F1 ground effect cars suffered from the same problems.
Mercedes W13 concept requires them to run the car low to the ground to improve downforce and clearly someone forgot during the design era to consider the bumps.
Team technical guru Andrew Shovlin admits there have been hard lessons to learn
“Those lessons, that learning is all quite valuable and we like to keep that within the team,” he said.
“It has been a very interesting journey, I think we were overly optimistic in where we thought we could run the car.
“The car that we launched had a lot of downforce close to the ground, and there were a lot of issues being able to actually run the car on track there.
“And I think that it’s no secret in the pit lane that people have been trying to get their cars further off the road, to try and make them better able to cope with bumps, and then to avoid them hitting the ground, where you lose a lot of the grip once it’s all going through the plank.
“But really just looking also at how the car is balanced through the speed range, through the different phases of the corner.”
Mercedes lost focus
In solving the porpoising, Mercedes lost focus on what the car needs to be quick and win races which Shovlin admits.
“In general, we just haven’t had enough performance on it,” he said. “It’s not just that where we had the downforce was in the wrong region, we’re just behind on performance.
“So, there’s a lot of areas that we’ve been working on.”
“The focus this year, changed relatively early to one of learning, making sure we can get back to a competitive position for next year,” Shovlin admits.
“And the signs that we’ve seen over the last six or seven races have been encouraging.
“We’re not where we would like to be – but the direction of travel looks okay, so we’re working very hard to try and improve that.”
The problem for Mercedes is they have dithered over next seasons car design, whether to as Lewis Hamilton favours ‘start again’ or continue to try and develop the W13.
Mercedes another year in the wilderness
Gary Anderson believes Mercedes will probably spend another season at lest in the wilderness.
“I am not sure Mercedes really is able to predict its future performance with the tools it has. As for 2022, Mercedes was quick on the Friday at Barcelona and didn’t really know why, it was on pole in Hungary and didn’t really know why, and it was slow at Spa and didn’t really know why.
At Monza, again Mercedes was slow but you could put that down to that circuit being an outlier and the team simply didn’t get on top of it.”
“Now is the time you really need to have an understanding of where you are currently and what direction you will take for next season. To allow you to do that, simulation has become a common tool.
Gone are the days of having a good gut feel and heading down that route. From what we have seen so far this season, Mercedes is not in that position with its simulation tools to predict its performance.”
Whilst the W13 may have more room for development it is too far away on qualifying pace from the front two and that won’t be dialled in any time soon.
Ross Brawn famously stated, “One team will get these 2022 regulations badly wrong” and clearly it is Mercedes.
Anderson concludes, “It sometimes appears that Mercedes is only too happy to stick with what it has and hope it finds a magical solution – and while that is going on complain about it and how the others must have exploited a grey area in the regulations that has allowed them to live with the problems.”
The technical team will always want to prove their car was in fact a good design, but the time Mercedes have wasted doing this will surely come back to bite them in 2023.
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) September 23, 2022