Mercedes W13, Circuit de Catalunya, 2022

Spanish GP upgrade will decide whether Mercedes change design philosophy – Russell

2022 Spanish Grand Prix

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George Russell says that the Spanish Grand Prix will mark a key weekend in determining the future development of Mercedes’ W13.

The team lies third in the constructors’ championship, well behind Red Bull and Ferrari. Mercedes have struggled to match the pace of both teams and suffered especially acute problems with porpoising.

With many teams, including Mercedes, bringing a wealth of upgrades to Barcelona this race weekend, Russell says the team’s performance could influence the development path they follow for the rest of the 2022 season.

“I think this weekend is for sure going to be important, as most weekends are,” Russell said. “But I think Rome wasn’t built in a day and it is taking time to first recognise what the problems are, develop things back at the factory to try and resolve these problems and then try to implement them.”

Following the first pre-season test at the Circuit de Catalunya three months ago Mercedes introduced a radical sidepod design to their car. Russell said they had seen signs of progress at the previous race and this weekend will decide whether they stick with their current development direction or abandon it.

“Obviously we don’t get much track time and Miami was a first taste of the direction we need to take. I think this weekend will be the second taste and I think we will have a good conclusion after this weekend if we can continue down the path that we’ve chosen or we need to go down a different path. So that’s exciting.

“I think if this is the path, we’re not going to suddenly see us on the top step of the podium. But either way we will have a positive outcome from this weekend.”

Russell’s team mate Lewis Hamilton says that even if Mercedes opt to go in a different direction from their ‘sidepodless’ design, they will not be forced to “start from scratch”.

“I’m not a designer so I don’t want to say that I have an opinion on whether design is right or wrong,” Hamilton said.

“It looks a little bit different to some others, but I think it looks unique and that’s what we stand for as a team. Just always innovating and coming up with interesting concepts.

“But I think we will understand from this weekend whether where we are is the right direction or, if not, we’ll burn it up and we’ll move in another direction. But it won’t mean that we have to start from scratch. I don’t think, it would just probably be a side step in either direction.”

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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9 comments on “Spanish GP upgrade will decide whether Mercedes change design philosophy – Russell”

  1. From what Wolff said, the internals and cooling concept are the same. So it would not be a massive undertaking to go to the previous sidepods. Why not run them both today?

    1. They’ve been busy telling themselves that if only they could change the underlying physics of spacetime, their concept would of course perform much better.

      Because pretending you can get this fancy-looking concept to work is much more appealing than raising your hand and admitting that you found yourself in a development cul-de-sac.

      1. Such valuable insight, you must either be an aerodynamicist or work for Mercedes

  2. Radical but destine to be another failure design after Williams’ Walrus Nose?

  3. I hope they have to go back to their original concept. Purely on aesthetic grounds. The Merc is a really ugly car, in my opinion. I realise of course this won’t be a factor in their decision.

    1. @phil-f1-21 With aerodynamics, usually it turns out that a good looking car is a fast car. I agree with you that the Merc just looks wrong – unbalanced.

  4. Aren’t we conflating sidepod design with the problem of porpoising? Maybe they can harvest the benefits of the zero-pod concept once they fix their floor, rear suspension and the flow under the car.

    I don’t know if there’s any truth to this, but could it be that Redbull’s sidepod design favours generating more downforce at the centre of the car, whereas Mercedes’ and Ferrari’s sidepod designs favour more downforce at the rear of the car, which triggers more porpoising? In that case, then Redbull has hit the nail on the head and the others will have to follow.

    1. I think part of the potential issue is the main benefit most thought they’d have with the sidepod less design is less drag so if nothing else the car would have been a rocket ship in a straight line. It is quite apparent though that this is not the case and in fact it seems to have more drag in their design than others. It could be they’re generating more rear downforce which is why they’re experiencing excessive issues with porpoising.

      From Mercedes perspective if they can fix the porpoising issues so they can run the car at it’s intended ride height then it may find the car just suddenly works. They’ll be able to generate more ground effect grip and lose some wing, they’ll switch the tyres on better, they’ll get better drivability and stability in the high speed to go with their cars great slow speed performance.

      Maybe Mercedes went with this concept because it could produce far greater ground effect and in future when tuned right it could prove to be a unbeatable concept. Obviously at present it’s looking a kipper though. It’s been good for F1 though that they’ve fallen a bit behind if just to shut up everyone whining about Mercedes domination.

      1. I agree. I think it would have been quite disappointing for many fans if the Merc concept had turned out to be just as dominant as it was up until last year. I mean until 2020. It’s a good thing that the order of performance has been mixed up a bit. Merc are probably still overall, the third best car though.

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