Mercedes F1 team has found itself in a tricky spot lately after being unable to find the root cause of the porpoising problem which causes the car to bounce on the track. The problem prevents the car from reaching its peak potential, thereby causing it to lose time and speed.
The Australian Grand Prix was Lewis Hamilton’s stronghold, thanks to the consistent pole positions held by him in the last few years. However, for this year, the Mercedes driver has qualified fifth while his teammate George Russell secured sixth place.
Hamilton commented that despite the efforts being put in to try and improve the situation, the team has not made any tangible progress in improving the car. He says:
“The problem is when you push the car a little bit more, she is quite spiteful,”
“She is like a viper or like a rattlesnake: you never know.”
However, Mercedes has kept faith in getting to the root cause of the problem. Once diagnosed and resolved, it would unlock the performance automatically. It is due to the same reason that Mercedes has not made further updates to the car. The problem needs to be diagnosed first, only then will the solution follow.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff spoke after the qualifying in Melbourne that his team would go deeper to find the problems: “I think set-up directions are very, very important, and we’ve seen the car, the drivers were much happier with the car today than yesterday, night and day was the words that Lewis chose.”
“But we are talking a couple of tenths, maybe a little bit more. The long runs will be interesting tomorrow.
“But there is a gremlin in our car, or a few gremlins, that we haven’t found yet. And that’s something that we need to continue to analyse and look at the data. As I’ve said before, it’s science, not mystics.”
The Mercedes boss suggests that neither have there been any improvements nor has the situation become worse. They are at the same place as before. Therefore making any blind updates to the car would mean acting in haste. What’s worse? It could shadow the actual cause of the problem and prevent the team from understanding it clearly.
Wolff goes on to say: “Nothing we did this weekend has unlocked the aerodynamic potential or has reduced the bouncing, we’re still at the same place,”
“And that’s why it doesn’t make any sense to bring updates, because you’re confusing yourself even more. Maybe it’s the fact the more downforce you bring, the worse the bouncing gets. So we are still learning.”
Ferrari too faced a similar porpoising problem with their cars during the weekend. But Wolff says it is worse for Mercedes:
“Our bouncing is worse in the sense that we are carrying that into the corners and in the high speed,” he said.
“We see where we lose performance. When you look at the overlay, sector one, we are very competitive.”
“Sector two we are competitive, and sector three, through 9 and 10 and through 12, we’re losing all our margin. It’s almost like a second through a couple of corners.
So is curing the bouncing the miraculous unlocking of a second within the car? No, for sure not. But there are many other little improvements that we can make on weight and a few others where we can optimise.
“You know how it is in Formula 1, we just need to chip away the small gains whilst understanding the car.
I’m optimistic that eventually, we’re going to get there. Whether it’s in two races or five or by the end of the season, I don’t know, but you need to stay humble.”
“My time horizon is not a race weekend or a year, it’s more like 10 years. I want to look back and have a competitive team, and there will be years where it is more difficult, and this is one.”
While Toto Wolff has not defined a timeline to get things working properly, he has hinted that the problem could take a short or a very long time to get sorted.
Do you think this is the best approach Mercedes have on the table?