Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says the team is not expecting to take a significant step forward at this weekend’s inaugural Miami Grand Prix, and is still attempting ‘trial and error’ to solve the problems which have blighted its start to the 2022 Formula 1 season.
The Silver Arrows have won eight consecutive constructors’ championships since 2014, dominating F1 with the fastest car in every single season of the hybrid era. But 2022 has brought with it the biggest regulation change in a generation in Formula 1, and so far this campaign Mercedes are way off the pace of rivals Ferrari and Red Bull.
F1 has returned to ground effect car designs this year for the first time since the 1980s, in an effort to allow cars to follow one another more closely and for drivers to race each other harder. So far, the changes seem to be having the desired effect, with Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen engaging in thrilling tactical tussles for the lead in all four of the opening rounds.
But the aerodynamic shift has brought with it a peculiar quirk known as ‘porpoising’, which sees cars bouncing violently up and down when travelling at high speeds due to the balance of air beneath the floor shifting forwards and backwards. While some teams have managed to resolve or mitigate the issue, Mercedes’ W13 car is suffering worse than most, and is simply slower through the corners than Ferrari and Red Bull’s machinery.
The team’s lowest ebb came last time out Imola, when seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton ruled himself out of this year’s title race after finishing a dreadful 13th, unable to pass the AlphaTauri and Aston Martin cars in front of him.
Wolff says that the cause of the team’s porpoising problems still cannot be identified in the windtunnel, and with in-season testing banned in F1, they are having to try to find solutions on the racetrack.
‘I think we’re trying to find a solution that not only fixes the bouncing,’ the Austrian said. ‘You can patch up the floor and make it stiffer, but you lose downforce and at least make the car more stable, but that’s not the direction we’re going. Unfortunately, with no testing, every race weekend is a little bit of a live experiment.
‘You can’t replicate the bouncing that we see on track in the windtunnel. And therefore, it’s like in the old days, it’s a little bit of trial and error, what does it actually do in real life? Therefore we are looking at a few directions where we believe they could help us to solve the problem long term without losing the goodness of the downforce by just lifting it up or patching the floor.’
The possibility of the car’s potential being released this weekend is remote, Wolff believes, meaning Hamilton and team-mate George Russell are unlikely to be able to challenge for the win once again.
‘There will be tweaks on the car this weekend where we think we can get a direction,’ the 50-year-old added. ‘But the performance of the car, we won’t unlock it from one weekend to the other.’
Red Bull chief discusses chances of Max Verstappen replacing Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes
For more stories like this, check our sport page.
Follow Metro Sport for the latest news on
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.