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F1 | Mercedes: “We pushed the package and our drivers too far, we are putting them into significant discomfort and we simply can’t do that again”

James Vowles Motorsport Strategy Director at Mercedes revealed the key issues of proposing and bouncing on the W13 that the teams have experienced throughout the season while addressing the severe discomfort it has had on Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

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F1 | Mercedes: “We pushed the package and our drivers too far, we are putting them into significant discomfort and we simply can’t do that again”
Fuente imagen: MercedesAMGF1

Mercedes delivered a strong result in Baku for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, their third 3-4 of the season, but it came at a cost with a significant amount of porpoising and a new issue arose, bouncing that caused discomfort for their drivers, especially for Lewis Hamilton. While a number of F1 drivers on the grid have expressed concerns over the effects of proposing under the new 2022 regulations, Mercedes appear to be struggling the most with managing the problem.

James Vowles, Motorsport Strategy Director, at Mercedes dove into the specifics of the porpoising issue along with other key setbacks that the team is experiencing during the 2022 season.

With eight races on a variety of circuits having been completed so far on the F1 schedule, Vowels reveals that each track affects the porpoising differently.  

“There is definitely a track by track element and it’s a function of how smooth the tarmac is and the layout of the circuit. I would say Baku certainly of the circuits we’ve had so far is on the worse end of it and conversely Barcelona probably on the better end of it. So, those two circuits definitely will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the package. 

Vowels emphasized how important it is to distinguish the differences between porpoising, bouncing, and bottoming in understanding the issues Mercedes is experiencing with their W13. 

“But it’s also worth putting a little bit of time into explaining porpoising, bouncing, bottoming – three words possibly being spoken a lot with a little bit of association of being the same thing but they are not quite. 

“We definitely suffered porpoising in the earlier races and in Barcelona we didn’t and we’ve made a tremendous amount of effort on our package to make sure that we tried our best to resolve it and I am confident we’ve made a step.

George Russell managed to score his second podium of the season for Mercedes in Barcelona, while Hamilton finished fifth. A strong effort by the Brackley-based team that centered around making changes to the aerodynamics on the W13. However, in the last two races in Monaco and Baku, a new issue resurfaced that involves bouncing.       

“In Barcelona the car was stable, robust and we could lower it and that’s the key, we managed to create a package were aerodynamically we were able to work with it a lot more, we could work with setup and we could drop the cars in terms of ride height producing performance.

“Come now to Monaco and to Baku, what that unfortunately uncovered is a second issue that was being masked by the first. 

“I’m confident we’ve made a step forward in terms of porpoising but we very clearly have bouncing and to the outside it looks almost identical, but there is a subtle difference between the two. 

“What is happening now is that the car is lower, as a result of fixing the first issue, but now hitting the deck quite hard and that’s creating the bouncing that you see at the moment.

“Again, you try and extract performance by running the car low but the problem is very different and the bumpier the track the more the input is clearly having an effect which is what we saw in Baku. 

While Mercedes continues to struggle in pinpointing how to make necessary changes to fix their porpoising and bouncing problems on the W13, Vowels claims that the team still has a long way to go before they return back to their winning ways at the front of the grid.  

“I think what’s clear is that we still have a long journey in front of us to learn everything we need to, to be fighting at the front but perhaps more importantly you will, as suggested by this question, see performance variation track on track as we go forward. Canada for sure will be very different to Silverstone in terms of how our car performs.”

During the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Hamilton vocalized how severe the pain he was experiencing from the porpoising on the car over the team radio, and after the race team principal at Mercedes Toto Wolff apologized. There were concerns about whether or not the seven-time World Champion would be able to participate in the following race if the porpoising issues were not resolved. However, Vowels announced that Hamilton’s health is fine and that he will participate in the next race in Montreal. 

“I am pleased to report that Lewis is here this morning, I spent a few hours with him and he is okay, he will be back in the car in Montreal. He is an elite athlete that will push the bounds of endurance of himself and the car and that’s what Formula One drivers do, that’s what makes them exceptional."

Vowels admitted that the team pushed the car and the drivers too far for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and that it's critical that Russell and Hamilton do not endure that level of discomfort moving forward. 

“On this occasion, though we pushed the package and our drivers too far, we are putting them into significant discomfort and we simply can’t do that again. Our drivers are not the only ones suffering, you will see in the media a number of comments from a number of drivers who are equally in discomfort and pain. And we have a responsibility now to make sure that this doesn’t carry on.”

Looking ahead to the Canadian Grand Prix, Vowels believes Mercedes currently lacks the pace and performance to fight at the top alongside Red Bull and Ferrari. Despite the ongoing issues on the W13, Vowels feels confident that the team will make progress that will bring them close to the fight at the front of the grid.     

“Every track we go to are learning a tremendous amount about this car and Barcelona for all intents and purposes was really to us a new car. We didn’t expect perhaps to drop back as much as we did in Baku but that provided a platform to learn from.

“Montreal isn’t going to be substantially different to the last two races, I think we will still have a package that isn’t at the front on merit. Red Bull and Ferrari will still be the benchmark that we have to compare ourselves to. I think though that the large gap that you saw in qualifying in Baku perhaps won’t be that big in Montreal, it will be back down from where it was and as we go through all the races from then onwards, I am fairly sure we will find small steps and developments that push us back towards the front.”

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