On talking to Tom Clarkson on the latter’s Beyond the Grid podcast, Mercedes Technical Director Mike Elliot discussed the issues the Mercedes team is having with their W13 F1 car. tracing it to one single “mistake”, Elliot explains how things haven’t quite worked in 2022 compared to the previous 8 years.
It seemed as though Mercedes could do no wrong as they received their 8th Constructor Championship win last year, but after a change of regulations, the team is yet to collect a single win from either Lewis Hamilton or George Russell.
Despite its innovative zero-pod design, it struggled with porpoising from the get go and it quickly became apparent that it was going to be a difficult year. Fortunately, these issues have been dialed back by the team’s talented engineers, although the car still isn’t a pole-setter in comparison to the likes of Ferrari or Red Bull.
“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,” Elliot admitted on the 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.
“But it’s not something we can fully correct for a little while yet, and we will do over the winter.”
Elliot didn’t define what this mistake was, but continued to discuss the loop hole they found regarding the lack of sidepods. Explaining how it only opened up “small aerodynamic advantages”, it sounds as though they were a disappointment in reality compared to what Mercedes expected.
“With a loophole, you go through the winter and you look at it and think ‘has anybody else spotted it, is someone else going to turn up with it?’
“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.”
Elliot also admitted that while they did get the design okayed by the regulators, it took some time for them to confirm that it was a legal design.
“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,” he admitted.