Mercedes had to sacrifice a significant amount of aerodynamic performance to start understanding its 2022 car problems, according to the team’s technical director Mike Elliott.
Eight consecutive constructors’ championships ended abruptly for Mercedes this year, as new regulations left the team struggling to work out how to get the most out of its car. Elliott says the improved pace in Barcelona was actually a result of work done at the previous rounds, including removing performance based on its aerodynamic potential to run the W13 as low as possible.
“Bahrain performance-wise we looked OK,” Elliott said. “A big chunk of that early activity was about trying to model those things, trying to understand those things in the wind tunnel and CFD, bring experiments to the track to make sure our understanding was correct before we could make progress.
“The result of that was a step in Barcelona — a step where we gave up a big chunk of raw wind tunnel performance to try and massively reduce the bouncing. I think what we saw in Barcelona was a car that we could now run where we wanted to run it in terms of ride height, but we had given up a lot of aero performance to get there.”
There were further challenging races soon after Barcelona for Mercedes, but Elliott says the issues that followed were more clearly understood and addressed.
“We got through Barcelona, had the sort of high of Barcelona feeling that we got good performance; we then saw over the next few races that other issues were coming in the car, issues with the way we were trying to run the car close to the ground and it took us a while to get on top of that. Not because we couldn’t understand it, but it takes quite a long time to change these cars around that understanding and deliver the performance.
“Each of the packages we brought moved us a small step in the right direction and then another small step in the right direction. By Austin we’d got to a car that, for me, wasn’t beating Red Bull but it at least put us in a sensible position and in a position where we could say that our development had moved us in the right direction and give us some confidence with what we are doing for the future.”
Elliott believes the reaction to the one-two in Brazil shows just how fired up Mercedes is to return to the front after such a long period of success.
“I think as Niki (Lauda) used to say: You learn more from failure than you do from success. And I think this has been a massive learning year for us. What’s really interesting to me is to see the reaction that we had after Brazil. It was huge. It almost felt like we had won a world championship and we had won one race!
“When you look at some of the seasons that we had previously, you think it is just one race but I think that’s what showed me the level of passion in the organization both at Brixworth and in Brackley and the sort of desire to get back to that — to get back to winning. I think it’s that desire and ambition that will get us there and if we can take all the learning from this year, turn that into direction for next year, I think that will set us in good stead.”