The German carmaker has had a rocky start to the 2022 season, with its W13 suffering from porpoising that is compromising its performance.
The team has discovered that, in order to prevent its car from bouncing, it needs to raise the height of the car so much that it gives up a lot of downforce and, therefore, time on each lap.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff apologized to Lewis Hamilton over the team radio at the end of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix for what he called an “undrivable” car, with which the seven-time world champion crossed the flag at squares in 13th position.
Although the team admits there is no immediate solution to their problems, Wolff believes the changes they are preparing for the upcoming races in Miami and Barcelona could be critical in allowing their car to run in a better set-up.
“We think the science that we’re applying right now will help us make the car run lower,” he said.
“It’s where we think we have the best aerodynamics, but we haven’t been able to unlock it because the car hits the ground.
“If we’re able to fix that, that means there’s quite a bit of lap time we can find. If not, we need to have another idea.”
Although Mercedes knows there are many areas where the W13 has to improve before it can challenge Ferrari and Red Bull at the front, Wolff is clear that much progress can be made once porpoising has been removed.
“The fundamental issue that kind of overshadows everything is that our car has more porpoising than the others,” he said.
“Because of the rebound, we can’t get [the car] to work where it should, and that has huge ramifications on set-up, tire grip, etc etc.
“So one thing is interlinked with the other. I think if we can get the porpoising under control, we will achieve a lot more in terms of car performance.”
“If we don’t get it, there are more conventional development paths that we haven’t tried yet. I want us to give ourselves the time to make that decision.”
The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was Mercedes ‘ toughest so far this season as neither Hamilton nor George Russell qualified in the top 10. However, Russell was able to get as far as fourth in the race.
As for his post-race radio message to Hamilton, Wolff explained that he was motivated by knowing the team was letting its drivers down.
“It’s just that the car couldn’t be driven in the same way as before,” he said. “Look at the fastball, the way it bounces off the frontstretch.”
“Sometimes I wonder how the two of them can keep the car on track. And Lewis [Hamilton] deserves better from us.”
“But we are a team, so we all have to do our best to provide him with a machine that is capable of fighting for the front positions.”