Formula 1: Mercedes excited about the new bouncing rule
The so-called porpoising has spoiled the start of the season for the constructors’ world champion of the last eight years. Despite the innovative because extremely slim waist, the former long-term winner in 2022 is not fighting for victories, but with the car instead.
“The start of the season wasn’t good, there’s no other way to describe it,” admits team manager Toto Wolff. “When you become world champion in December before that and then you can’t compete for the top, that’s frustrating.”
The problem: Sometimes the Silver Arrow has too much downforce and causes back pain with the unpleasant hobbling of star driver Lewis Hamilton. Again, the contact pressure is missing to build up enough traction in the curves. And as if that weren’t enough, the technicians also complained about excessive air resistance. An ominous combination.
“Right from the start, our biggest weakness was the hopping movement of the car,” confirms Wolff. “It overshadowed everything and hampered aerodynamic development. The more downforce we created with the car, the worse it bounced. From Spain onwards we started to understand the car better and we got rid of the porpoising before the summer break. But we are a few months behind our opponents in terms of development.”
Nevertheless, the Viennese even sees it positively: “The days on which we lose are the most instructive. The hard lessons we have had to learn over the past few months will serve us well for years to come.”
This also includes the realization that it is sometimes better to improvise than to get bogged down in a mass of data. “We did unconventional things this season,” reveals the Austrian. “I remember having a conversation with a very smart lady from the aerodynamics team. And she said, ‘If you had told me last year that we were going to put an underbody on the car that we hadn’t tested in the wind tunnel, I would have said we would never do that.’ But we did it and everyone was proud of the results.”
The goal for the second half of the season: “Increase our qualifying pace and thus be able to win again,” says Wolff. “I don’t think we’re close enough to Ferrari and Red Bull to really challenge them. But we learn a lot and it is important to make mistakes every now and then.”
The race in Spa (Belgium) should be exciting for Mercedes. Because there the technical directive of the FIA, which is intended to prevent bouncing, applies. Mercedes expects the new rule will also prevent the potential use of flexible underbody, like the ones Red Bull and Ferrari are said to have bolted to their cars.
“It’s going to be very interesting,” says the team manager. “Let’s see if the difference in vehicle height then makes a difference for the teams that drove that low. I don’t believe in the silver bullets anymore that we’ll suddenly be three tenths faster than everyone else, but it will be interesting.”
One thing is certain: the ups and downs at Mercedes should end the new directive one way or another…