George Russell, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2022

Mercedes saw signs of W13’s deep flaws in its first run at launch

2022 F1 season

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The shortcomings with Mercedes’ W13 which led to their least competitive performance for a decade were detected during the car’s very first run, the team has revealed.

The W13 was launched at Silverstone on February 18th. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell drove the car for the first time that day.

The team’s head of trackside operations Andrew Shovlin confirmed that was when the team first realised the W13 was not performing the way they expected it would.

“To be honest the signs were there from the very, very early running, even on the filming day that we did at Silverstone,” said Shovlin in a video released by the team.

The depth of the team’s plight became clearer over a pair of three-day tests which followed at the Circuit de Catalunya and Bahrain International Circuit.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2022
First run at Silverstone hinted at W13’s shortcomings
“We then went for three days in Barcelona and the car was not that competitive,” Shovlin recalled. “But we were expecting a big update that we were going to bring to Bahrain. That was the point that we realised that we had a serious issue, at that Bahrain test.”

Mercedes introduced their aggressive ‘zero sidepod’ design in Bahrain. “We put the update kit on and it simply didn’t make the car go quicker,” said Shovlin. “Now, it’s been an interesting year from there on, but it has been a lot of work to do to try and get on top of those problems.”

The team began to make progress with the car when it returned to the Barcelona track for the Spanish Grand Prix in May. “That was the one where we made the biggest step in getting on top of the aero bouncing phenomenon and we were able to have pretty good performance” said Shovlin.

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“But also it allowed us to see that once we’d solved that issue there was still other issues to solve with the ride of the car. It wasn’t very good over the bumps and it gave us the clarity to work on those next steps.

“Whilst it was only a small step in the right direction from a learning point of view it was a really important update.”

Having gone almost the whole season without winning a race, a further update introduced by the team at the Circuit of the Americas led to a breakthrough win for Russell two rounds later at Interlagos.

Shovlin is optimistic the team now understands all the problems it had with its 2022 design and will apply those to next year’s W14. “It’s fair to say that by the time you’ve got to the end of the season you’ve raced across a whole range of circuits, you should have pretty much understood all the issues and certainly by the end of the year.

“Whilst we still had some problems with the car that were making us less competitive at some tracks those were not new problems, those were problems that we could anticipate and that have been there for quite a while.

“Now, the big body of work that’s been going on for the last number of months has been to make sure that those issues on the 13 don’t get carried into the 14. We made good progress there and you can see that in some of the later updates particularly the update that we brought to Austin just put us that bit closer to the front.

“A lot of our focus was making sure we can develop an update kit, bring it to the track and actually see it translate to performance and hopefully the culmination of that work will mean that we can get an altogether more competitive package together for next year.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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30 comments on “Mercedes saw signs of W13’s deep flaws in its first run at launch”

  1. Maybe if they hadn’t wasted time building a “fake” car with sidepods on it to “fool” the opposition they would have had a better season?

    1. It’s just the same car with conservative cooling. It’s not fake.
      Who told you it is fake?

      1. Well I mean the car with sidepods and the no sidepod version obviously going to behave very differently in terms of aerodinamycs. So they wasted 2 weeks of testing running a car which they didn’t intend to race and then debuted the “real” car in Bahrain and it wasn’t working instantly and they were already 2 weeks down on their rivals. I think Mercedes’s cocky attitude has finally caught up with them, because in seasons like 2019 they could get away with messing around and portraying themselves as underdogs and then going to the final week of pre season testing like “Oh, that’s not really our car.. This is our car!” while they introduce a heavily modified aero package. According to Adrian Newey this was the biggest change in Formula 1, since the 1980’s so with limited testing, it wasn’t the time to do jokes and play mind games and Toto found it out the hard way when they got bodied by Ferrari and Red Bull in the beginning of the year and they spent almost the entire first half of the season just figuring out how to solve their car bouncing on every straight which caused severe back pain and emotional damage to Sir Lewis Carmilton, the merchant of rocketships.

        1. Is this an attempt at fanfic?

          1. Is there anything that’s false there to be fiction?

        2. So they wasted 2 weeks of testing running a car which they didn’t intend to race and then debuted the “real” car in Bahrain

          Like Red Bull did?

          1. Success needs no defence

      2. The cooling is the same Edvaldo, the sidepods aero was made to fool everyone, the car ran barcelona with the fake aero.

        1. Why try and fool everyone? The most they would gain would be 2 weeks of someone not copying them. Prob one race weekend. Surely the lost testing time was more damaging.

          1. They were not able to fix its gremlings during a full season of testing and collecting data.

            They would need much more than a 3 day session to fix it.

  2. Should’ve raced the “fake” one!
    And how many pitlanes are there with no garage 13, hotels with no room 13 etc…

    1. Yeh but the McLaren MP4/13 did just fine…this could become a Christmas holiday article on the site!

  3. Finished team

    1. We love to see it

    2. I don’t think so, if there’s anyone who can beat red bull it’s mercedes and they have a good shot next year given they ended up 3rd in the constructor’s championship (more wind tunnel) and given red bull’s penalty.

  4. Can’t they just stop acting like it was the biggest soapbox ever? Easy 3rd car on the grid, many podiums, a victory and nearly beat Ferrari (and without the setup experimenting early on probably would have) to 2nd. Many drivers dreaming of a car like that.

    Spoiled primadonna’s is what comes to mind.

    1. True ! McLaren and Williams, even Ferrari (after 91), had fall a lot bigger than Mercedes’s one this season

      1. As for ferrari you just need to go back 2 years, 2020 was their worst season in around 40 years and definitely worse than merc did this year.

      2. By comparison a podium was special for ferrari in 2020, it was routine for merc this year once they got a bit closer to the front.

  5. I don’t know what this “revelation” now is supposed to accomplish.

  6. Interesting that again it pretty much shows that the best computer modelling etc is no real substitute for on track reality.

    Happens time and again in all businesses where computer modelling and analytics say “this is the way to go” when reality just doesn’t work that way.

    1. And yet for 8 years their computer modelling worked fine and delivered them title after title but sure, pick the one season they had a bad year to prove your point. What happens if in reality they’re back fighting for the title next year? Computer modelling is fine provided you have correlation on track, if you don’t have correlation then you need to understand why otherwise all your modelling will be wrong.

      Computer modelling is far better than on track testing in terms of prototyping and concept testing. There’s a reason CFD modelling is restricted.

      1. And for a fair number of those years there was a lot more track testing pre season, not to mention unlimited budgets where they could spend and react quickly if something was wrong.

        They also had the benefit of a massively superior PU for most of those years, particularly before party mode was banned and in the first few years PU was king.

        Couple that with the fact that air flows pre ground effects were well known and it’s easy to see why they were OK then.

        This year was a whole new ball game.

        1. I don’t think there was that much more on track testing, maybe a couple of days?

          The PU was just the icing on the cake, it was widely accepted that Mercedes had the best aero concept by a country mile for 2014 to 2020 and their development pace is second to none.

          Clearly the ground effect modelling was incorrect but that seemed to have been resolved when you look at the development in the second half of the season. Every change they brought seemed to bring pace. The only reason the year was a whole new ball game is the entire aero concept changed and they didn’t have correlation of track and modelling data.

          We’ll see at the start of next year but I would fully expect them to be a lot closer next year from the start. Indeed I will concede money is an issue now, unless of course you’re a team that chooses to ignore the cap.

          1. Untill last year Mercedes just spended a couple of millions to solve the problems. Thats no option anymore.
            They were able to develop the car until the last race so they reserved a lot of money for the development in advance.
            Now there is no way to outbuy your weaknesses and they learned the hard way .
            Very curious for next year.. if they keep this concept ( as Wolf already confirmed) there will be a lot to change.
            The weak floor design as a result of the zero sidepods ( the extra support they needed was not allowed), the floor height ( they succeeded in 15mm extra by rules) the weight of the car and last but not least the adaptions on the diffuser and the rear.
            A lot of work again..

          2. Red bull got a really marginal advantage by bypassing the cap, you do nothing with a couple more millions at those levels; I agree regarding mercedes’ in season development being 2nd to none, they also did very well while being limited by the cap.

  7. Interesting that again it pretty much shows that the best computer modelling etc is no real substitute for on track reality.

    Computer modelling only ever works when you have a full set of data from the real world to load into the modelling programme.
    Start playing with a chaotic flow and things get less certain, because the start data may not be valid.
    Remove the ability to get real world correlating data (all the limitations on track and wind tunnel testing) and real world and computer model move further apart at the initial moments of the model.
    If you have someone on the design/test team who has done it all before, pre-CFD, then that closes the gap on real and computer.

    There’s a system for deriving results from insufficient data, and it isn’t a computer.

    1. Yet now Mercedes have a complete year of data they have been pushing through their model and we’ll be back to refining the models again now. They might not be the number one team on pace next year given the bad year they just had but you can expect the gap to narrow dramatically and their development pace to scale up too.

  8. @liemo

    “it was widely accepted that Mercedes had the best aero concept by a country mile for 2014 to 2020”

    No, it’s not.

    But proof me wrong, and show me your evidence.

    Here’s my first piece of evidence:

  9. They have a major flaw in their heads if they saw its shortcomings so early and understood it after 20+ races. That’s stupidity with capital S. Knowledgeable yes, but profound lack of understanding at the same time.

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