Mercedes not yet certain their porpoising problem has “disappeared”

2022 Spanish Grand Prix

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Mercedes say the porpoising problems they have experienced in previous races may not be permanently fixed despite finding a significant improvement at last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Porpoising was a significant limitation for Mercedes in the opening rounds of the season. The problem was so serious that at Imola George Russell warned that the situation was not sustainable.

The team appeared to significantly reduce the bouncing they experienced in Miami during Friday’s practice sessions, only for it to return the following day. However their Barcelona upgrade package appeared to provide a more definitive fix, leading to their most competitive performance of the season so far.

However Mercedes’ motorsport strategy director James Vowles warned that it might not be a completely solution to the issue.

“We’ve had one race out of six where the car has been well-behaved,” he explained in a video released by the team. “It was a car that, really, was a proper racing car for once.

“We could set it up, we could tune it, we could play around with the settings and it would respond in a way that was predictable and the same couldn’t be said for the car that we had for the first five races of the season.

“However, we have to temper our expectations,” he continued. “It’s one track and a track that has suited our car for many years prior to this one. There is a lot for us to understand and learn. I think it would be wrong to say that the porpoising issue has disappeared.”

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Vowles pointed to other teams where the problem had come and gone to a greater or lesser extent. “You still see it on our competitors and I am sure there will be elements of it coming back again as we build on our understanding and the foundations that we laid down in Barcelona.

“What I can say is we made a definitive step, a step in our understanding and the deployment of what we put on track and we can build on that, and the same could not be said about the first five races, with the car that we had there.”

The two upcoming races on street tracks will test how successfully Mercedes have solved their problems, Vowles said. “We’ve got difficult tracks coming up, we’ve got Monaco and Baku which will throw up their own challenges and surprises.

“The difference now, though, is we have a car that is within touching distance of the front and a car that we can fight for a championship with.”

Russell and team mate Lewis Hamilton were both told to slow in the final laps of Sunday’s race due to power unit problems. Vowles said the team suffered severe overheating problems in the high temperatures last weekend.

“We were very, very hot on our power unit side,” he said. “To give some context, the ambient temperature was up to 37 degrees (Celsius) in the race, started round about 36 and actually went up later in the afternoon. That is incredibly warm, that’s an outlier relative to nearly every circuit on the calendar.

“The drivers had to respond and the way you do this is by looking after the power unit, making sure your nose is in clear air, making sure you are doing lots of lift and coast.” Vowles said the team’s drivers “did a really good job to get those cars home to the finish” under the circumstances.

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2022 Spanish Grand Prix

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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14 comments on “Mercedes not yet certain their porpoising problem has “disappeared””

  1. It’s something which happens during a certain area and for Mercedes the highspeed corners. Even in Spain you saw still moving of the car during the highspeed corners but Spain corners are rather short keeping the Mercedes stable somewhat.

    1. @macleod

      I think with Hamilton getting a flat at the beginning of the race had inadvertently given the engineers at brackley a huge opportunity in data collection to refine the package with Lewis driving in anger by himself without much interference for most of the race. It was a massive testing run for them and then comparing that data to G. Russel’s who was in typical race traffic.

      That probably wont solve the issue but I’m betting they’re closer now than they were before Spain.

  2. Sure, it won’t have solved all issues – it clearly did not make porpoising disappear completely, even in Barcelona, as we could see that on the race footage. But then, most other teams still suffer from that as well, so they will just have to slowly work towards finding a setup and configuration that they can work well with.

    The point is that it does not seem to be the huge limitation on them unlocking any potential any more (off course, track difference will certainly influence the relative performance of the cars, but that is normal).

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      25th May 2022, 13:39

      We won’t know for few weeks whether they’ve solved it really. Spain was never going to be one of the worse tracks for porpoising and Monaco isn’t going to provide any answers at all. Azerbaijan and Canada will though and if they don’t suffer from porpoising at those tracks and are on the pace, it’s safe to say they’ve resolved their issues.

      1. Even if the porpoising is gone (or rather, brought to about the same level of what Ferrari deal with) and it shows in the next few events (yes, Monaco is not going to give us much meaningful clues on that given how different it is), they are still quite a bit slower than both the Red Bull and the Ferrari, especially in the race there were several tenths per lap off at best.

        1. @bascb Exactly. I have never bought into the concept that once Mercedes solve their porpoising issue they’ll be much more competitive. That’s not a given. RBR and Ferrari are the tops in performance and one suffers a lot of porpoising too, and it hasn’t harmed their overall pace. RBR has had barely any porpoising of concern from minute one in testing, and they and Ferrari are very very close.

          To me Mercedes is simply going to have to prove to themselves that whatever they found for Spain will translate to better performances elsewhere, so unless they truly have solved a mystery I think it is far from a given that Mercedes is now more competitive at all types of tracks under all types of conditions, which is what Ferrari and RBR have shown so far.

          And let’s keep in mind the fastest finisher for Merc (GR) was 32 seconds back of Max, and as Binotto said that could easily have been something more like 40+ seconds back of CL had he gone on to win. That’s anywhere from .5 to .7 seconds a lap down. In qualifying the best Merc (GR) was .65 seconds back of CL. If this is Mercedes ‘greatly improving’ I don’t know why there would be a ton of optimism for them for Monaco etc. But sure, maybe off this they will now have a better focus on improving more yet. But they’ve got a long way to go.

          1. Merc and others don’t expect the porpoising resolution is the only resolution. Merc said they now have a baseline f1 car that does what they expect so they can work to unlock performance over the next few races. They are pretty much at race 1 where development is concerned compared to the others as they have been focusing on getting the porpoise sorted. Lets wait and see what happens next.

          2. Kurik Yeah fair comment and for sure it is of course one race at a time.

          3. @Robbie your conclusion is not factoring a lot of circumstances, the simplest of them is the fact HAM and RUS were on different race setups and the setup for HAM proved to be around 0.7s per lap faster than RUS, which in turns voids all the talk about them being 0.7s per lap slower in BCN. in fact, HAM finished the race with a smaller margin to the leader from after his lap 1 incident. And with regards to propoising, the official F1 site states in its findings that the MERC was the least car affected by the phenomena in BCN. So MERC have definitely made a huge step compared to the others already, you could see from the gap of RUS to BOT despite him pitting 3 times, they made a very decent step in BCN. The only question is whether this step was exaggerated by the fact BCN always suited them or not and this answer will be left to Azerbaijan and Canada. Dunno, myself I’m feeling they will carry on with better pace from day on.

          4. Boudi Hmm not sure about that. I think it remains a fact, as Binotto points out, that GR was 32 seconds back of Max in the end, LH 55 seconds, and that could have been more had CL lead the whole race and won given he was pulling away from Max.

            As to porpoising I find that a bit strange since RBR have barely had any all season, so for that site to claim Mercedes suffered it the least seems weird, but ok even if so we know that performance is not necessarily directly related to the degree of porpoising. If it was, Ferrari would be way slower.

          5. I would just add, I’m not saying Mercedes hasn’t improved, but as Binotto pointed out .5 to .7 seconds back in quali and/or the race is what Ferrari were in 2021 and they never won a race.

          6. @Boudi haters will hate Boudi, and no matter what you say it is one opinion for them that matters. their opinion.

            If Lewis didnt have the crash at the start, given the deg others had vs Ham’s race pace after the crash and on meds, there were all sort of combinations could have happened! it is not illogical to think Ham could have been on cleaner air or at least could work with GR to keep max behind long enough dragging eachother in DRS to annul Max’s attacks. on hindsight everything was possible but for haters only what they think/see what they please was possible. I wouldnt be suprised if Merc is running for wins within the next 3 races!

          7. @Boudi, in fact LH did not finish with a smaller margin at the end compared to after he came back from the pits on lap2. At the end of lap 2, after he pitted, LH was 54 secs behind the leader (CL). At the end he was 55 secs behind the winner (MV), who don’t forget lost 9 secs when he went off track putting him back in 4th behind Perez on lap 9. MV also had no DRS remember. So that would suggest a net loss for LH of 10 secs from MV between lap 2 and lap 66 (basically full race distance). As already stated to, had CL made it to the end, LH would likely have been at least a further 10 secs behind him. So 19 secs behind CL (virtual winner). LH also had the advantage of a long period of clear track (clean air) in front of him to put in plenty of clean, fast laps, causing less damage to the tyres less by not following other cars. Also having more flexibility in LH’s strategy too, I think the end result has flattered the Merc. Without a doubt, Merc are getting there, GR proved that, and LH put in a stellar drive (after he wanted to quit).

  3. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    25th May 2022, 18:31

    I read the same as Boudi. Lewis mentioned somewhere that the setups diverged with George having a better qualifying setup.

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