While recent developments have improved Mercedes’ competitive posture in Formula 1, they may also have played a part in the return of the porpoising problems that troubled the team so much last year, based on drivers’ feedback during the Belgian Grand Prix.
The race weekend at Spa-Francorchamps was mainly wet but throughout the three days there were signs that the Mercedes in particular was suffering from porpoising — or bouncing — at high speed. The drivers referenced it after sessions and the team’s chief technical officer Mike Elliott says work will take place to work out whether it was track-specific or a result of the recent upgrades.
“We definitely had an amount of bouncing this weekend — both drivers were telling us that and we could see it in the data,” Elliott said. “We could also see an amount of bouncing on the other cars and I think some of it is the nature of the circuit at Spa. In fact we had huge amounts of bouncing last year, as did most teams.
“It definitely affects the performance of the cars because it affects the drivers’ ability to extract the maximum grip from the car, it affects their balance and it affects their ability to get their braking points right. So that is something we will be working on for the future.
“The question we need to ask ourselves is, how much of it is just the circuit we were at in Spa and how much is to be found in setup. Because obviously it was a weekend where we had no dry running up until the point we were actually racing. We will take a really good look at the upgrade kit and make sure that we’ve not introduced bouncing with that but at the moment our belief is it is probably a result of setup or the circuit itself.”
Elliott also noted the weather conditions throughout the weekend led to the two drivers opting for different rear wings, with George Russell struggling to match Lewis Hamilton in every session.
“Like every race weekend, we go in by doing an amount of work in the simulator to try and get the general balance requirements of the car right, work out what downforce level we want to run, work out where we are going to place our mechanical balance, our aero balance, just to get ourselves roughly in the right window,” he explained. “So the two drivers did that program before the Spa race weekend — in George’s case he felt that the bigger rear wing gave him some options. He preferred the balance of the car driving with that, so he elected to start the race weekend with that. Normally what happens is the two drivers come together over the race weekend but obviously this weekend was pretty wet, there was no dry running and both of them quite liked the car they’d got so elected to stay where they were.”