It’s rare that free practice generates such excitement and speculation, but given the volatile nature of the F1 field with these new regulations, there were whispers that Mercedes were back at the front after an encouraging day of Friday practice.
However, things quickly spiralled out of control for Mercedes, who took several steps backwards into Saturday Qualifying. It was clear from Practice 3 that there were still gremlins plaguing the W13, as porpoising re-appeared quite aggressively.
Porpoising has been an issue for Mercedes throughout the season so far, but Miami demonstrated an even bigger problem for the Silver Arrows. The reigning champions do not fully understand their car.
No number of upgrades will be enough if Mercedes cannot be confident in the impact these updates will have. Toto Wolff has made several comments about the correlation issues Mercedes are experiencing – which means the data from the factory in Brackley is not translating into on-track improvement.
There is concern that Mercedes pay the price for relying on “trial and error” to identify which upgrades will take the team in the right direction.
Mercedes should be pleased with their final result at Miami, as P5 and P6 seem a fair reflection of their current ceiling. This result, however, demonstrates where Mercedes finds itself as a team.
The Silver Arrows have shown they are able to separate themselves from the midfield pack on a good day, but fail to consistently challenge Red Bull and Ferrari.
Speaking of Red Bull and Ferrari (Red Bull especially) there is a risk that Mercedes will fall even further behind, with the main championship protagonists continuing to take forward steps in development.
Already 50 points behind in the constructors’ championship, Mercedes could turn their attention to cutting their losses and going back to square one, in order to remedy their highly aggressive aerodynamic philosophy.
Miami buried any realistic chances of a Mercedes title charge, but if the last 8 seasons have taught us anything, it’s that Mercedes can never be fully written off.