Formula 1: Mercedes hops again: “Slower than in training”

As good as it looked for Mercedes at the Miami GP after George Russell’s best time of the day on Friday, it is just as hard for the Silver Arrows to land on the ground of facts only 24 hours later: Russell flies out in twelfth place in the second qualifying section, record world champion Lewis Hamilton ends up sixth behind ex-teammate Valtteri Bottas in the Alfa Romeo.

After qualifying in Florida, Mercedes sport director Toto Wolff grudgingly admitted: “We’re learning exponentially, but it’s tough at the moment. Of course, we were hoping for a better result.” The astonishment of the silver is great after the drop in performance compared to the day before.

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Russell grumbles: “It’s very confusing. My qualifying lap today is slower than yesterday’s practice session. The car felt very different again today and we were struggling a lot with bouncing again. It’s really a shame when you sees how much potential there was in the car yesterday.”

Out already in Q2: setback for George Russell in Miami

Sport director Wolff believes: “Yesterday we were quite competitive, so we got a taste of the performance that is in the car if we have it in the right window.” The joy of the Silver Arrows is short-lived, however, as Wolff admits: “Today we were completely in the middle of nowhere again. The car jumped like a kangaroo. You can see the problems that are causing us, because it has an effect on braking and the tires.”

When researching the cause of the Hoppel relapse, Mercedes is once again faced with a puzzle. Wolff: “We tried something after yesterday that didn’t seem like a big change, but obviously affected the car badly and threw us back. We tried to further optimize the downforce level, but that caused us to bounce again.” Particularly bitter for the Viennese: “We couldn’t fix it for qualifying, although we went back to what we had yesterday.”

According to Wolff, on Friday it still looked as if Mercedes’ upgrade package with new front and rear wings and the associated low downforce would also help against bouncing. “But the track has now developed more grip, and it was also windier today. Now it looks like the (jumping; ed.) hasn’t healed,” says the Mercedes head of sport.

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For Miami, Mercedes has not changed the design approach of the W13, which still manages practically without side boxes. Interesting: Wolff continues to defend the extreme concept, but admits for the first time on Saturday that it is an Achilles’ heel of the car.

“We believe that our concept has the potential to be at the front with it. But it’s also a sensitive concept: if it’s in the window, it works well. But it’s very difficult to get into that window because with us the underbody is more exposed than in other cars,” says the Austrian, looking at the ultra-slim Mercedes.

However, Wolff does not believe in throwing the concept away early and concentrating on a new development for 2023: “The rules remain the same. Our understanding is growing every day. And we have always said that this weekend here is still one thing for experiments is: yesterday was good, today is not. But we haven’t given up yet and are going back to the simpler solutions.”

The engineers’ search for clues continues at Mercedes

But do the drivers have the same patience as the team boss? At least the young Russell looks extremely pissed off after his early qualification on Saturday: “To be honest, it’s quite inconsistent: we thought we had a pretty conservative set-up to avoid bouncing and then it suddenly is as bad as this morning. Yesterday I thought I was fighting for pole. Today I’m 12th which is my worst qualifying session of the year. It’s disappointing.”

Striking: Only one person is really happy at Mercedes in Miami on Saturday: Lewis Hamilton. The reason should be obvious: With sixth place, he gets some much-needed air in the internal duel with Russell, who has recently been getting stronger and stronger. “It was a much better qualifying session than in the last races. I’m very grateful for that and I’m happy to take it with me,” commented a grinning Hamilton on the actually weak Mercedes result.

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