His night’s sleep will not have gotten any better. Before the opening race of the Formula 1 season in Bahrain, three weeks ago, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff admitted that he had slept better. Not infrequently, the Austrian was woken up by the problems surrounding the new car. What else could he and his team do?
Wolff and Mercedes have not yet found the solution. In Bahrain, the mediocre performance was somewhat obscured by the retirement of Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez, so that Lewis Hamilton still finished on the podium. But in Saudi Arabia, two weeks ago, the Briton only just managed to get into the points thanks to three dropouts. Newcomer to Mercedes George Russell performed more consistently with fourth and fifth place, but he too lacked the pace to compete for the win.
The weak start to the season feels strange for the German team, which dominated Formula 1 for years. Wolff already drew a comparison with the only year that Mercedes did not compete for the title under his leadership. “We have managed to lead the race field for eight years. Not consistently, but we always managed to get the lead. Now it feels like 2013, when we couldn’t keep up with Red Bull in terms of speed, and actually not with Ferrari,” he told the website this week. RaceFans†
Mercedes has to settle for a supporting role behind Ferrari and Red Bull for the time being. Also for the Australian Grand Prix, where Hamilton and Russell will drive with a new rear wing, place five and six seem the highest achievable. How did that happen?
The fingers of many analysts are pointing at the amendment of the technical regulations. The major change that the international motorsport federation FIA made at the start of this season, which should make the battle on track more exciting. Including a new package of requirements for the cars. In addition, a budget limit has been in place for the Formula 1 teams since 2021. This year it is 140 million dollars (more than 128 million euros).
The collected data from the previous years was suddenly worth nothing for all teams due to the new regulations. But the financial ceiling is hitting the German team harder. Where Mercedes led the list of budgets year after year – in 2020 the German team had about 440 million euros to spend – there it cannot spend much more money than competitors on the development of the car this year.
That’s exactly what Mercedes would like. The team surprised with the W13, the car for this year. The carte blanche for engineers resulted in a model that differs from that of other teams on a number of crucial points. This has already caused discussion in Bahrain. Did Mercedes adhere to the new rules?
Including the side pods, the parts of the car on both sides of the driver that play a role in cooling the engine, have shrunk considerably at the drawing board in Brackley, England. They characterize the unique and radical aerodynamic design of the new Mercedes.
According to analysts, the first races of the season have shown how daring that choice is. Lewis Hamilton complained about the lack of balance in the W13. The car does not respond as the Brit expects, the real control is missing. This is mainly due to problems with the floor, the underside of the car. Mercedes has suffered more from the first training laps in Spain porposing than any team. The car bounces on straight stretches, something that can be seen especially in slow-motion images. Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc also complained about it. He compared it to turbulence in an airplane and it made him nauseous.
No team bounces as much as Mercedes. The movement is named after a porpoise (porpoise in English). The toothed whale moves in the same way through the water. Up and down, to move forward. But where it gives the porpoise speed, bouncing is disastrous for a Formula 1 car.
The new models generate so much down force that the floor actually touches the asphalt. In contrast to previous cars, less downward force is generated on balance. Due to technical adjustments, this is mainly done via suction under the car, and no longer above it. These adjustments, in combination with the suspension of the car and the suspension, have a major influence on the speed.
The asphalt acts almost like a magnet, eventually interrupting the airflow and losing the downforce. The car then lifts off the ground, generates downward force, before descending again. This movement often repeats itself, especially on straights. “The faster you go, the worse it gets,” Russell said.
Increasing the ride height of the car is the only way to reduce the suction power. But as a result, the race car also loses some of its ability to generate downforce, Russell told Jeddah after the race Motorsport.com† According to the Briton, the bounce is “99 percent” the problem of the difference in speed with the competition. Because that has to be solved first, the team can’t focus on other variables yet, such as the fine tuning the balance or adjustment of the vehicle.
Hamilton called the W13 “nervous” after the Saudi Arabian GP, the rear wheels of his car kept sliding away. “It must be something in the set-up,” he said. “It’s hard to tell what’s good for the car and what isn’t,” Russell added. “Sometimes we think something is an improvement, but then it actually gets worse.”
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of April 8, 2022
Mercedes is still looking for balance after two grands prix
Source link Mercedes is still looking for balance after two grands prix