Mercedes technical boss Mike Elliott says the mid-season setbacks were a “kick in the butt” to reveal the W13’s real problem
This year’s Formula One season for Mercedes has resembled a rollercoaster ride. If the manufacturer, which is used to success, initially struggled with so-called “porpoising” under the new technical regulations for 2022, an extensive upgrade package in Barcelona seemed to provide the hoped-for remedy.
George Russell finished third and Lewis Hamilton came fifth despite a first lap incident that dropped him to the back of the field. This result led the team to believe they had solved the problem.
Hamilton said at the time that solving the problem represented a “glimmer of hope” for Mercedes’ season, while team boss Toto Wolff even felt encouraged to get back into the title fight against Red Bull and Ferrari.
But Mercedes’ form did not take a significant upturn after Barcelona. Difficult races followed in Monaco and Azerbaijan, which made it clear that, contrary to expectations, the problems with the W13 had not yet been resolved.
Without “porpoising”, true problem revealed
It was only this that enabled the team to identify the real core problem with the car, as engineering director Mike Elliott revealed at Suzuka recently. “The problems that we had sort of built into the car we couldn’t see because of the bouncing. The bouncing just dominated everything,” Elliott said.
“When we got a handle on that in Barcelona, we had a package that made a significant difference and we thought, ‘We’re going in the right direction.’ Then we got a good kick up the backside in the next two races.”
The engineer uses the simile of an onion. “When you peel off the next layer of the onion, you have a different problem. And what came to light was the one problem we had baked into the car over the winter,” the Brit explains.
“Since then we’ve taken various steps to move in the right direction, but to really reverse that we’re going to need the winter. “
However, even with the changes Mercedes made to the W13 to address the problem, the team was able to move closer to Red Bull and Ferrari at the front of the field. This is how Russell took pole in Hungary. However, the brand did not have a win this year with only four races remaining.
Elliott: “It takes some time to learn then “
Elliott insists that trying to fix the “porpoising” that occurred in pre-season testing was made more difficult by the limited testing opportunities. After all, he says, Friday’s practice sessions are meant to prepare for the weekend.
“So you have very little time to test,” the technical director knows. “And it then takes some time to learn. At the same time, you look at the approach of the people in the factory.”
“We became aware – probably after Baku – that there was clearly a different problem. We went through the data and our simulations and found out what it was. But time just remains limited. It’s an aerodynamic problem and it just takes time to get it under control. “