George Russell, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2024

Australia revealed Mercedes’ weakness in warmer temperatures – Allison

Formula 1

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Mercedes say their poor weekend in Australia gave them some insight into why their W15 isn’t performing well.

The team failed to score last weekend as Lewis Hamilton retired with a power unit problem and George Russell crashed out of seventh place on the penultimate lap.

Their car’s performance up to that point was a cause for concern as Russell only qualified seventh and Hamilton failed to make the cut for Q3. The team looked more competitive in the final practice session, where both drivers appeared in the top five, and technical director James Allison said that indicated one cause of their problems.

“Almost no set-up changes occurred between FP3 and qualifying,” he explained in a video published by the team. “We take fuel out, of course, we turn the engine up to 11, all those things. But no significant difference on set-up because we felt we got the car in a decent window in FP3 and that was reflected in the time sheets.

“But we are starting to see a pattern emerge in that most weekends we have a period in the weekend where we are feeling good about the car, confident about the car, but then in the ‘paying’ sessions, in qualifying and the race, that slips through our fingers.

“If we were trying to draw that pattern together then probably the strongest correlation that we can make at the moment is that our competitiveness drops when the track is warm, when the day is at its warmest and therefore the tyre temperatures rise with those of the track. The times when we have been at our best have been all in the sessions which are the coolest and so that gives us some clues about what we need to do as we move forward from here.”

The team will be able to address this partly through changes in set-up, but Allison said they may also have to consider design tweaks to the W15.

“If you know what you’re shooting for, if you’ve identified correctly an accurate assessment of why our competitiveness waxes and wanes, then you can work into the weekend a programme that is dedicated towards trying to move the temperature and the temperature balance front to rear in your favour using all the conventional set-up tools on the car. That work you can do back here in the factory and the simulation and so on.

“But if you conclude, having exhausted the degrees of freedom that you have available to you in set-up terms, that you still need to go further, well then that gets harder at that point because that will be that there are underlying characteristics in say the aerodynamic map that you’ve engineered or the suspension characteristic that is aggravating that particular feature.

“In order to make it really heal up nicely then you would have to change those underlying features. It can be either quick and dirty or a little more involved and a bit more complicated.”

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Keith Collantine
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25 comments on “Australia revealed Mercedes’ weakness in warmer temperatures – Allison”

  1. The thing that has amazed me about Mercedes over these past few years is that they never seem to know what is going on with their cars… It’s like they lack the fundamental understanding of what they’re actually trying to achieve with their designs. They constantly highlight issues like this – “we struggle when the temperature goes up….” Great – so what is causing that problem? Why is your car worse when the temp goes up? They don’t seem to be able to address that next step.

    I expect them to battle with their car for a while before determining that the car is a bit of a diva (not their fault – it’s the car’s fault) and coming back next year with another new design.

    If Hamilton wants another win before he retires, he’s made a brilliant decision to move to another front-running team because Mercedes have done nothing over the last few years to suggest they are moving forward.

    1. Exactly. When you hear this

      probably the strongest correlation that we can make at the moment

      you get the sense of a team with huge technological assets and skills clutching at straws in the wind. Can we expect a different excuse for every circuit this year?
      Hamilton’s move makes sense in a very simple assessment: Red Bull are the dominant team and he’s not going there. Going back over the years, two decades or more, Ferrari have usually been first, second or third – but on average second. If Mercedes are in a downward spiral, like McLaren when he left, then a move to Ferrari is much more likely to offer some competitiveness than a Mercedes who still, three seasons in, seem at a loss about how to design a car for these regulations.
      At the same time, Mercedes have had a lot of success. I’d really like to see McLaren back competing for wins too (with Ferrari). So close but never quite enough.

    2. At the end of the day, it’s a skill issue right. But what are they going to say? We’ve reached the limitation of our capabilities and need to learn more to improve our position?

      That statement is true of every F1 team on the grid.

      They open up about their knowledge of where the car is struggling and explain fully the plan for next steps including going down the possibility of your expectations.

      It’s a process and there’s very unlikely to be an instant solution. But they’ll keep working to find it in the mean time.

  2. This is pretty strange since the Australian GP had a max temperature of around 20/21 degrees Celsius. That is just a nice warm day, nothing excessive. If they can’t manage that, they really got their design wrong.

    1. Yep, whistling past the graveyard/

    2. The only quantifiable factor they have is temperature, so it must be related to that. It makes you wonder about the rest of their modelling. It’s too late for rethinks so they’ll just bodge their way for the rest of this ground effects generation and pray it’s not reintroduced.

      Their problem is they are still designing aero as if this were a normal car where smooth airflow equates to a faster car. We saw this with their slim pods and it is fundamentally how they think ground effect should work. What they should be looking at is consistent airflow, airflow which is less likely to be affected by external factors. Consistently turbulent would work too, but this would take their modelling into the realms of quantum, when what they need is good old fashion intuition.

  3. Melbourne exposed Mercedes weakness. There, fixed that statement for you James. No need to try and add temperature or some other reason.

    Let’s hope they can pull a Mclaren and make a significant change mid season or it’s going to be a very long season for them.

  4. Saudi Arabia exposed Mercedes’ weakness in the high speed corners, now Melbourne exposed Mercedes’ weakness in warmer temperatures. What’s next? Monaco exposes Mercedes’ weakness in low speed corners?

    1. @keithedin Rain. Abrasive surfaces. Smooth surfaces. Wind. Damp. High kerbs. Medium-speed corners. High altitude. Sea-level circuits. There’s a lot more I’m sure…

    2. Oh, but it’s never the drivers

    3. No, Mercedes is losing out in the aero and Power unit department. The former is because they suck apparently, the later could be due to back room negotiations or just regulations allowing Red Bull to overtake them by a country mile. It’s clear that the Mercedes Power Unit is 3rd best on the grid, just in front of Renault and behind Ferrari’s.

  5. I like the quotes, it all makes sense.

    I hope for everyone’s sake they actually don’t improve much relatively. Down with Aston Martin is fine. Maybe we get some Alo-Ham action throughout the year.

    1. Without Johnny Herbert around preferably

  6. I am really starting to.wonder how many drivers will still be interested in that Mercedes seat at the end of the summer.

    They might have to pick from rookies or current backmarkers.

  7. It sounds a bit like the classic Russian “problem” with weather affecting everything from crop yields to industrial output, or whatever else suits the needs of the government.

    But! This idea by Allison does make some sense if one considers the extremely narrow operating window of these Pirelli tyres. Melbourne is of course also the first day time race of the year, and temperatures usually reach their highs in the late afternoon, so that made it a bit different from the first two races, in places where temperatures can quickly drop after sunset. It’ll be interesting if the upcoming races will allow them to set the car up better for race conditions in the similarly timed practise sessions.

  8. so, they are slow on the straights, on high speed corners, low speed corners, sunny days, warm cloudy days and, did i miss something?

    1. Yeah, and at night.

    2. On tarmac, gravel and grass, but there’s hope on dirt tracks

    3. Clockwise circuits.

  9. Oh, come on, they must be doing something right, they’re faster than 5 other teams.

  10. So how many races this year are going to be colder than the 20-ish degrees in Australia?

    1. Not Miami. Qatar…nope. Probably Vegas, at that time of night. And never rule out Silverstone.

  11. I am not an engineer. But they might look into the ideal gas law and expect the lower temps will mean more downforce and better performance. Jokes aside the problem drivers say is consistency and confidence in the car. My guess is their diffuser design has unpredictable stall behavior, which they to solve by running the car low and stiff. Which may reduce oscillations in flow but probably make the car hard to drive since it’s on the deck, it’s bouncing, has very little roll. It’s a shopping cart with 1000hp.

  12. Good luck with current climate.

  13. It’s not the warmer conditions, its a car that has a horrible and broken performance envelope that looks more like pacman than your standard V-n plot.

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