After holding the record for most consecutive constructors’ championships – eight titles between the 2014 and 2021 seasons to be specific – Mercedes are currently struggling with the W13 and 2022 season. For the first time since 2011 they haven’t had a win over the season. They have five more opportunities to rectify that.
However, team principal Toto Wolff says they have detected a way to have a better performance on the car for next year as they look to get back to winning ways on a consistent basis.
“To turn the ship in this industry is a little bit like an oil tanker,” Wolff explained. “First to understand what the root causes for your non-performance, then you have to peel the skin, the various skins off: what’s the first layer? What is the second layer?
“Are we really on top of all the questions and the answers? No, we are not. But I think a big chunk of the performance that we are missing, we have discovered. It’s not something we can change this year, it’s decisions that we have made for next year,” declared Wolff.
While he disclosed that they still got work to do for next year, Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott, has declared that they have discovered what doomed their performance in 2022.
“You look at how we developed the car, and I can point to one moment in time last year where we did something where I think we made a mistake,” Elliott told F1’s Beyond The Grid Podcast.
“What you’re seeing in terms of performance and the way it swings from race to race as a consequence of that, and that’s a mistake we’ve known about for a while, and something we’ve been correcting and that’s why our performance has gradually got better.”
As he says, while they have corrected some issues relating to that specific moment and have gotten better results – as they did during qualifying in Singapore – they haven’t been able to understand fully why the W13 is not as quick as it should be, reason why the improvement will be worked on when the season ends.
“It’s not something we can fully correct for a little while yet, and we will do over the winter,” said Elliott about the turning point that led them to have a poor performance at the beginning of this year.
Another aspect about the W13 that caught everyone’s eyes before the first race is the “zero sidepod” design Mercedes decided to go on with. Elliot also explained how they found a “loophole” that led to this concept.
“With a loophole, you go through the winter and you look at and think ‘has anybody else spotted it, is someone else going to turn up with it?’,” Elliott added.
“While it looks visually very different, as always with these things, it’s about opening up small aerodynamic advantages.
“Without going and running a development on the concept we’ve got, and running a development on a different concept, it’s hard to know what it will be worth at the end.
“But it wasn’t a huge game-changer, in the learning we’ve found this year, it’s less about the shape of the car, it’s more about the way we approach the development of the car, that’s where the difference lies. When you look at the sidepod, people say ‘it looks very different, that must work completely different to the rest of the cars’, and it doesn’t, it’s just a slightly different solution.
“Aerodynamically I don’t think it’s a massive departure from the other cars, it’s just something that adds a little bit of performance for us.”
He also verified that the FIA was aware of this design and that even though it was not the design they intended, that it was quickly confirmed to be a legal concept and within regulations.
“The aerodynamicists come up with the idea, we take another group of people, generally run by our chief designer, they will go and look for themselves and see if they can shoot it down,” Elliott explained when asked how the team ensured its design was legal.
“Before the test, we’d shown it to FIA, we discussed it with them, their first reaction was ‘ah that’s not what we intended’ and they worked through it as well, [to] see whether they can challenge it.”