Mercedes rolls the dice to salvage her “skating” season in Miami

Lewis Hamilton downplayed the importance of Mercedes’ new upgrades yesterday, saying he didn’t expect “major changes” to the pecking order this weekend. Why talk up something if you don’t already know that it works?

But the Brackley team appear to have rolled the dice with changes described as “significant” to both front and rear wings in Miami to alleviate the issues that have plagued them this season.

Mercedes’ main problem is ‘porpoises’, the phenomenon that occurs when airflow under the car causes it to bounce up and down at high speed. Porpoising affects all teams to some extent as they grapple with the new technical regulations introduced this year, the biggest changes in a generation.

Mercedes’ problems are so severe that they have been forced to run the W13 much higher than they would like to keep it from constantly bottoming out. That in turn means they missed out on what Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff describes as all the “aerodynamic goodness” they should enjoy from the car’s design.

Other teams have found other solutions to the problem. The Red Bull floor, for example, has what’s called a “skate” bar — a strip of metal with holes in it — that sits in the back outer corner of the floor.

Ultimately, however, all of these issues are not fully understood, even by the brightest minds on the teams, leaving those of us watching searching in the dark to understand them.

What is clear is that without in-season testing, teams are forced to try different things in the field to see what works.

It’s still unclear if the changes Mercedes made to their car for this weekend’s inaugural Miami Grand Prix allowed them to run it at a lower ride height.

Trackside engineer Andrew Shovlin said at Imola that engineers at Brackley hoped to have something ready for Miami that would at least help them better understand the phenomenon.

“Is there an aerodynamic solution we can apply to the car that will eliminate this problem?” he thought.

“To be realistic, we think we’re approaching it in stages rather than in one big moment where the whole thing goes away. But we are seeing encouraging signs.”

But the new wings should at least help Mercedes have relatively little straight line speed this year. Engine performance has played a role in this, with Ferrari’s powerplant now clearly being the field of choice where the Mercedes engine once reigned supreme.

But Mercedes is also aware that the high downforce spec wing pack they opted for at the start of the campaign means high drag.

“This rear wing configuration offers reduced downforce and reduced drag based on track simulations,” the team said yesterday.

While Hamilton was cautious in his pre-first practice press conference, teammate George Russell sounded a little more optimistic.

“I think we’re finally getting to a point where we’re confident that maybe we can solve it in the coming races. But we will see.”

Early results seemed somewhat encouraging: Russell and Hamilton were second and seventh fastest in practice one yesterday – Russell less than a tenth behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Mercedes has publicly written off its chances of fighting for both championships this year. In theory, if they can solve their porpoise problems, they still have plenty of time to catch up, especially as both Red Bull and Ferrari have dropped points.

Russell heads into the weekend just 37 points adrift of Ferrari’s Leclerc in the standings after becoming the only driver on the grid to finish in the top five at every race this year.

Hamilton is another 21 points behind but with at least 18 races left this season and the seven-time world champion will certainly not be lacking in motivation to turn things around.

Hamilton said in his press conference that he noticed the “disrespectful” comments made by many pundits after his last appearance at Imola, where he finished a low 13th.

“It was interesting to see,” Hamilton said. “[But] it is to be expected. I just keep my head down. i know who i am I know what I am doing. i love what i do

“We’re going through a tough time right now. We didn’t get off the ground like we wanted, but we’re fighters. And if you don’t know that about me, then you just don’t know me.”

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

https://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/motor-sport/mercedes-roll-the-dice-to-save-their-season-with-ice-skates-in-miami-41623884.html Mercedes rolls the dice to salvage her “skating” season in Miami

Fry Electronics Team

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