Single problem may explain why Mercedes are “getting it wrong” with car – Wolff

2022 Belgian Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says their huge performance swings in last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix show they are still suffering “non-correlation” between design and reality with their 2022 car.

The team qualified poorly: Their top car was 1.8 seconds off the pace, set by Red Bull. Although Lewis Hamilton and George Russell started fourth and fifth on the grid they were promoted from seventh and eighth by penalties for their rivals.

However, while Hamilton retired following a first-lap collision, Russell climbed to fourth at the finish, closing on the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz Jnr over the final laps.

Wolff admitted the difficulty the team is having in understanding its car was hampering their development of the W13. He was unable to point out which part of the design needs to be looked at as a priority to increase the car’s performance, but conceded there could be a single shortcoming which is causing other problems.

“Today, we’re getting it wrong. The non-correlation in the various areas is causing us not performing,” he said. “Now, maybe there is a single thing that overshadows everything, and therefore we are not doing it justice to question really every part of the car.

“Are the tyres something that we fundamentally don’t understand and actually all the rest is good? Or is the aero messing it up, or the mechanical balance? I think that is so difficult to dissect. And that’s to the point of if you never lose, you learn.”

Mercedes’ performance had been “totally sub-par” in qualifying but much more competitive in the race, Wolff admitted. “[We were] beaten by the Alpines, Albon very strong, Valtteri right there, Norris probably.

“Then in the race at times we go three seconds a lap faster. There’s big question marks about what’s going on. It’s not where we should be. We have the structure and the knowledge to understand a racing car, but we don’t with this one.”

However Wolff said the team will continue to tackle their problems in the same way as before.

“I can tell you it’s fucking difficult, all these nice Instagram posts and everything we talked about for eight years, how we’re going to take this when you’re right in there in the dungeon, to stick to your principles and to your values, keep the spirit up and really continue to relentlessly seek to get better. There’s more to write a book about this year than there is about the last eight years.”

While he remains confident the team still have a chance to win a race before the season is over, Wolff admitted the W13 is “not going to have the highest place in the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.

“It’s maybe going to go in a little bit of a case.”

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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
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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24 comments on “Single problem may explain why Mercedes are “getting it wrong” with car – Wolff”

  1. Lease Red Bull’s wind tunnel — or technical staff.

    1. @elchinero woudn’t they just be hiring all their ex staff back that Red Bull poached. Everyone’s been raiding Mercedes for a few years as people naturally move on for pastures new and higher wages over time. Knowledge drain is always a tough thing to beat by top performing teams, the fact Mercedes kept at such a high level for so long is a testament to their management teams.

      I think this year just proved that their concept which is very different to anything seen before was probably a step too far as they’ve not been able to properly correlate their performance deficiencies. Red Bull and Honda have done outstanding this year, 2023 is looking a wrap too unless the gap is closed this year.

  2. They maybe 1.8 secs off on qualifying at SPA, but they were on pace with Ferrari in the race. If they keep qualifying 5th and 6th or higher, they can still be fine in the race. Qualifying is no longer that important. Cars can follow, but tyres and mechanical parts still overheat. If I know anything, the most important thing now is to get the tyres in the working window. Otherwise, there is just no grip. But they have come a long way. Therefore, whatever they are working seems to be doing the job, at least compared to Ferrari and the midfield.

    1. The lack of distance between Ferrari and Mercedes on Sunday was mostly due to Ferrari suffering from high tyre degradation.

    2. If I know anything, the most important thing now is to get the tyres in the working window.

      That is indeed a major issue that won’t be addressed until Pirelli is replaced. After more then a decade as the sole supplier, it seems fair to conclude that Pirelli just can’t make tires with a broad operating window. Every other season they claim to have new compounds that are easier to bring into a window of optimal performance, but it’s always the same result. The Pirelli tires have their peak performance only in a tiny window, and outside of that the cars instantly lose tenths to seconds a lap. Never mind the silly, artificial – not to mention extremely wasteful and environmentally harmful – compounds that can’t even last 100 kilometers (that’s not on them, that’s an F1 choice).

      1. The issue I have with criticising Pirelli is that all teams have the same tyres to deal with. It’s a variable that’s consistent across all teams and Mercedes have plenty of experience with them. It’s always easy to take a dig at Pirelli but ultimately they’re designing and building tyres that fit the breif they have been given. Yes, sometimes they get it wrong but I’d happily wager any other tyre manufacturer sticking to the breif would have similar issues.

        That’s a long winded way of saying, Mercedes issues are their own. Toto never blames the tyres rather questions their own understanding of them. It’s easy to take a dig at Pirelli but they’re not the ones that have ruined Mercedes season. They’ve done that on their own.

      2. Oh boy. Always a queue of people willing to criticise the tyre supplier even though they’ve got nothing to compare them with.
        There’s absolutely no comparison with Michelin, Bridgestone or Goodyear, for example, as the cars and circuits have changed massively in every way since they were producing F1 tyres.
        Actually, the only comparison available now is with Avon Cooper – the only other tyre manufacturer producing tyres in F1 sizes. Interestingly, they put in a tender for the F1 supply contract last time, along with Hankook…. F1 chose Pirelli.

        Further to that, as @antznz says, the tyres are the same for everyone. It’s up to the teams to make them work in the optimum way, not for Pirelli to make tyres that (certain) teams want. Every team will inevitably want their tyres to behave in a slightly different manner, because their cars are all slightly different.
        And even further – no matter which tyres any tyre supplier gives them, the teams always aim to extract absolute peak performance from them, and will regularly exceed it – especially over a period of time. And then blame the tyre supplier for their inferior product…

        Every car racing series suffers this exact same ‘issue’ – and it always comes back to how the tyres are used.

      3. Pirelli made the tires as required by the FIA: Multiple compounds with different grip levels and endurance. each with a 1.5% laptime and 40-50% endurance difference, and a limited window to make sure they show the limit of their usability without posing direct dangers. This is a hit and miss operation, but the last few seasons they’re close to the specs required. Of course, Pirelli can make fast tires that last the complete grandprix, but then you’re wasting the pit crew fun.

    3. @krichelle

      They maybe 1.8 secs off on qualifying at SPA, but they were on pace with Ferrari in the race. If they keep qualifying 5th and 6th or higher, they can still be fine in the race.

      But for Mercedes, what good is it to be “fine” in the race, and to fight with a Ferrari, if that means they aren’t anywhere close to Red Bull? Their aim is to return to their (title) winning ways. Not to be “fine”.

      They have a real hard decision to make: drop their zeropod design, or continue with it. For that they must first understand their design and car, and it seems they just cannot get to that point where they understand the car and can make a sound decision. And it is September already so time is running out if they want to be competitive for the 2023 season.

  3. Toto is apparently still believing the engineering managers that have their pride riding on this design and who are looking for the silver bullet to make it behave on track as it does in their sims.

    At some point, he’ll have to cut these people loose and concentrate the team on producing a design that works where it matters – in the real world.

    1. @proesterchen Why should Mercedes be forced to adapt their design so that it works in reality? Reality should be made to change so that it matches the simulation.

  4. Maybe because it doesn’t have conventional side pods. Perhaps they should have developed that original concept they had back at the start of the season.

    Of course we don’t know if that would have worked either. That too may not have been on a par with Red Bull but it might have developed better.

  5. Sabotage (data hacking)? Three seconds a lap coming and going is huge. Can a wind tunnel or CFD modelling suddenly go out of whack that far?

    1. Three seconds seems an odd figure. Times were much slower in the race than in qualifying so it’s hard to say how much was down to the track. Mercedes did have the second smallest difference between their best qualifying and race times, but the difference was only four tenths smaller than Red Bull. Mercedes definitely did better in the race than in qualifying, but not by a whole lot, and mostly in relation to Ferrari. Ferrari was by far the worst when comparing race and qualifying times, at least if you discount Leclerc’s last lap on fresh soft tyres and take Sainz’ fastest time instead. So that definitely helped Russell stay close and almost take third.

  6. Problem and solution … not correlation, it’s “triskaidekaphobia”.

    1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      30th August 2022, 18:00

      I did make a similar comment at the start of the season of MB clearly not superstitious.

      In my opinion the bit that is missing is the real world track surface undulations and how the MB is so stiff with its suspension. The wind tunnel looks remarkable because it is flat and the car can be run low.

      An article describes how the ride height had to be lifted at Spa higher than perhaps normal.

  7. ‘non-correlation between design and reality’ is the single best way I have ever heard someone say ‘we @#$@#$#-ed up’

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      30th August 2022, 19:27

      Lol, yeah akin to “I suck” being the same as “a definitive non-correlation between my ability and my goals”

      1. Reality is for those who can’t afford high-end simulators…

  8. Stick some sidepods on it.
    Thick sides save times.

  9. I’m curious to see what next year’s Merc looks like.. I can why they went down this route and I can also see that it could be faster than a more conventional design. The reality is this
    design is proving more difficult to implement than expected.

    The design is quite possibly flawed or it could be they haven’t unstood it well enough. The big and intriguing question for next season is do Mercedes double down on something with potential, that they have invested this year in or go back to a conventional design that every other team has more experience with now. Mercedes can catch up but they will be playing catchup… interesting situation they have got themselves in. Can’t wait to see what they turn up to 2023 testing with!

    1. To me it seems Mercedes decided to make the floor/tunnels the best downforce producer and then make the car as slippery as possible with narrow side pods. Everyone else went the other way by using the sidepods and floor/tunnels to produce very low drag downforce. I think this is also the reason Mercedes needs to run the car so low and suffer from porposing. Just my opinion, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night (USA joke)

      1. I’m not an aerodynamicist, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express! 😉

  10. Maybe they miss Bottas feedback to develop and understand the car. Williams is doing a lot better without Russel so maybe he was holding them back. Presumably Lewis always had to rely on his team mate to develop the car.

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