Mercedes have been facing quite a few challenges in the 2022 F1 season with regard to the aerodynamics of their car. The first two races of the season witnessed drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell struggling with severe porpoising which involves violent bouncing of the suspension at high speeds. This has prevented the car and drivers from reaching their full potential.
The problem occurs as a result of increased forces between the underside and upper surface of the car at high speed until the pressure stalls. When the pressure is suddenly released, the front of the car rises before being pushed down again. This continues to happen in a cyclic manner until the car drops speed while approaching a corner.
To try a quick fix, the team has had to run the car with a different aerodynamic setup as opposed to the model developed in the simulation. The change in the setup has had quite a drastic effect on the rear wing of the car. A ‘shortcut’ solution to the problem was to increase the ride height. But, this actually caused more drag.
The only sensible option that remained on the table was to use a lower downforce rear wing which had not been made yet. Another lower rear downforce wing had been used at the race in Jeddah but, that wasn’t sufficient enough.
Consequently, Mercedes have been able to quickly manufacture brand new parts that may help overcome their challenges. We can expect to see a newly designed rear wing along with some changes being made to the floor of the car this weekend in Melbourne.
The new rear wing is expected to have a significantly smaller mainplane than the one used in Jeddah. However, the Albert Park track is a much higher downforce track than Jeddah, but the recent changes to the circuit have mostly made it low drag friendly by a small margin, but not as much as Jeddah.
Expert Mark Hughes, who anticipated the Mercedes W13 update in Melbourne this weekend is of the opinion that Mercedes’s solution to the porpoising problems is similar to ‘sticking plaster- type’ mitigation. In reality, the update might reduce the porpoising problem but eliminating the problem entirely would mean that Mercedes might have to redesign the entire floor.