Gary Anderson: Red flags in claims of knowing a Mercedes

For Mercedes, the 2022 F1 season has always been about ensuring that they build the understanding needed to prevent their mistakes from repeating next year.

But team boss Toto Wolff’s recent comment about having a “great conceptual understanding” but still struggling to make sense of what he called “mood swings” in the car’s performance over the weekends at the Grand Prix raises red flags.

Mercedes is now confident that it can almost predict how competitive it will be at any given circuit, which is reflected in its recent showings where it has been strong in Hungary and Zandvoort but weak at Spa and Monza. That’s one thing, but to say you really understand the car, you need to know why things are so volatile during those weekends.

They are often asked which teams are preparing for during pre-season testing. The simple answer is that it is used to discover the characteristics and behavior of your new vehicle. It’s a bit like a first date. You may have had a lot of communication and data exchange and saw some pictures, but this is the first time you will find out if it meets your expectations and things are working as hoped.

Once you’ve done a few laps and worked through a few setup changes, you’ll know deep down whether or not your new car is something to be proud of or not, as Wolff once described the 2017 Mercedes, “a bit of a diva.” It turns out the 2022 Mercedes is just that, in fact you could say “a lot of diva” because the unlucky W13 has bitten the team over and over again.

Mercedes is a better and more consistent car in the race than it is in qualifying, showing at least that the team can get the best results on Sunday and have had consistent results. This indicates that there is some understanding there.

This, combined with the additional aerodynamic test time allotted to it for the second half of 2022 thanks to a slide to third in the constructors’ championship, should put Mercedes in good shape for 2023.

Yes, there is a change to the outer floor edge that needs to be addressed thanks to a change in regulations for 2023 to combat safety concerns related to porpoises and jumping. But along with the extra CFD and windtunnel, the fact that the floor sills will be raised by 15mm should help because I think that’s the area that Mercedes struggles with.

The writing was on the wall from the first time I ran the car. When I was in the hot seat of the coach, I knew after the first test whether it was going to be a fun season or an uphill battle. Yes, you can do your best to beat the problems but with the maximum cost, you need to make use of your pennies.

The inconsistency in Mercedes is evident when you look at its percentage deficit at the top in qualifying over the course of the season. And that confusion exists whether it’s Hungary, where Mercedes was in pole position, or at Spa and Monza when Mercedes was out of reach.

Mercedes’ inability to rehabilitate

a race inability % average km/h
the two seas +0.751 213.542
Saudi +1.025 249,443
Australia +1.229 241.050
Imola +2.493 218.834
Miami +0.934 217.385
Spain +0.817 211.983
Monaco +1.031 166.590
Azerbaijan +1.335 210.401
Canada + 1.958 * 189.400
Britain + 1.002 * 207,927
Austria +0.688 237.575
France +0.983 229.185
Hungary +0.000 203,828
Belgium +1.773 238.992
Holland +0.435 217.025
Italia +1.700 255.811

* Wet / wet session

Wet, dry, fast or slow rings There is no apparent consistency other than the fact that they are far from the level expected of a team that has won the last eight constructing championships and seven of the eight drivers’ titles.

If you take Hungary, where Mercedes has been at the pole, it has a few long 180-degree corners, so if you take that as a positive it looks like when the car has had time to settle down, it produces good grip. Most of the other circles have shorter corners, so it seems like most of their problems are when entering. This may also be due to instability in the braking.

For the driver, braking and cornering is where he gains confidence and this is what allows him to increase cornering speed.

After the race at Spa, Wolff made some interesting comments about the “huge fluctuations in performance that we can’t really overcome” and pointed out areas of disengagement from simulator to track.

More importantly, he admitted, “We struggle to get the car to work where we think it needs to run in order to extract the most downforce which is why we got it conceptually wrong.”

This was an obvious problem for a long time and surprisingly Mercedes didn’t follow in the direction of Red Bull and Ferrari either by opening up part of the floor edge or changing the floor edge detailing to incorporate a tunnel.

Incorporating a tunnel into the footboard area of ​​the underfloor is somewhat similar to the tunnel that teams have used in the footing area of ​​the front wing end panels for many years. Allows air to flow between the body surface and the track. This airflow allows the seal to be a bit like a dimmer switch. Without it, the seal is either good or bad – there is simply no in between.

Sometimes Mercedes seems too happy to stick with what they have and hopes to find a silver bullet – and while that has been going on, he has complained about it and how others have exploited the gray area in the regulations that allowed them to do so. Living with problems.

I’m not sure Mercedes is really able to predict its future performance with the tools it has. For 2022 Mercedes was fast on Friday in Barcelona and didn’t really know why, he was first in Hungary and didn’t really know why, he was slow in the spa and didn’t really know why. At Monza, Mercedes was slow again, but you can bear in mind that that circuit is out of the ordinary and the team simply hasn’t outgrown it.

Now is the time when you really need to understand where you are now and the direction you’re going to take for the upcoming season. To allow you to do this, simulation has become a popular tool. Gone are the days when it was a good gut feeling to go that route. From what we’ve seen so far this season, Mercedes is not in that position with its simulation tools to predict its performance.

Formula 1 World Championship, Italian Grand Prix Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy

It’s now mid-September, and if this is one of her regular seasons, you will now be making big decisions about the main body of the 2023 car. To make those decisions, you need to trust your tools. If they don’t, there will be compromises later in the design and manufacturing process.

Speaking after Monza, coach Mike Elliott said the Italian Grand Prix at the weekend went as Mercedes had expected. Once again, it was about understanding.

“We’ve worked hard to improve performance and we’ve done it gradually through the season, but we’re also trying to get the highest level of that understanding of why some circuits are good for us and some circuits are bad for us,” Elliott said.

Formula 1 World Championship, Italian Grand Prix practice day, Monza, Italy

“The work that resulted from that has kind of given us a tool that allows us to pretty much predict where we’re going to be, so we knew going to Monza was going to be a much more difficult circuit. It would be more like what we saw at the spa and less like what we saw in Zandvoort and Budapest.”

“Having said that, looking at the car we had, putting it back in third and fifth I think was a good result for us. It showed we ran the car really well, the drivers got the best of it. Given the situation we are in In it with the car, I guess I couldn’t ask for more.”

The only thing I agree with here is that the race team, circuit engineers and drivers did a good job on Sunday. If Mercedes had a car that could really qualify for this thing better and I understood why, the race win would be on paper without any question.

I suppose this proves what we’ve all known for years: a car’s performance is critical. That’s what we saw with the success of Red Bull 2010-2013 and Mercedes 2014-21. We may now see a new streak of success with Red Bull, or at least Max Verstappen, in 2022 and beyond. In the case of Ferrari, she has a fast car but makes a lot of mistakes on race day.

Based on all of this, one of my big questions would be is Mercedes willing to take it on the chin for just one season to have more aerodynamic research time for next season? As we say, everything is fair in love and war and you can say that about F1 very easily.

So while Mercedes is not far behind Ferrari in the battle for second place in the constructors’ championship, perhaps the real prize is to finish third and get an extra wind tunnel and CFD time?

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