At this time last year, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell had a tremendous headache. It was something more literal than metaphorical, and derived from the tremendous bounces that occurred inside the W13, the car designed by Mercedes to try to recover the title of world champion lost to Red Bull (2021).
However, the shake that the technical regulation suffered, especially at the aerodynamic level, created a space of opportunities. Some, like Ferrari, took advantage of it to bite into the disadvantage that separated them from the fastest. Others, like the German manufacturer, got lost along the way. The reintroduction of the ground effect and, above all, its interpretation was one of the main obstacles that conditioned Mercedes in the first section of the last year, in which at no time was it a clear contender for the crown —it finished as the third team in the table, with a single win.
Winter has served to calmly and in detail analyze the weak points of the car, in order to avoid transferring them to the new model. Along with being overweight, which has led the troops from Brackley (Great Britain) to leave the half-prototype carbon fiber on the air, the elimination of the rebound or porpoise It was one of the priority objectives with a view to 2023. Both purposes have been achieved, and the lack of poise in the middle of a curve seems to be the point of the W14 that has the most room for improvement. “If we look back a year, let’s say that now we have a much easier problem to solve than then,” Russell summed up this Saturday.
Even though that him porpoise It is not something exclusive in the Silver Arrows, others, like Ferrari, managed to reduce this phenomenon with the advancement of the calendar. After the first two days of pre-season testing in Bahrain, Mercedes does not hide her satisfaction for having managed to destroy those uncomfortable jumps that the car gave. Apart from the redesign of the vehicles, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) applied a slight modification in the regulations to facilitate the disappearance of the problem. Thus, the difference in height between the lateral edges of the floor of the cars, and the central plane, grows by 15 mm, a circumstance that, on paper, prevents the generation of the intermittent vacuum that turned many single-seaters into cocktail shakers.
“For us, things are very different from how they were a year ago, when the car, at this point, was just going up and down and the drivers were barely able to drive,” says Toto Wolff, director of Mercedes, from Bahrain, where Hamilton and Russell completed a total of 152 laps on Thursday, finishing sixth and ninth respectively. Yesterday, on the penultimate day of winter training, a hydraulic problem prevented Russell from riding in the last hour and a half, leaving him (13th) and Hamilton (16th) far from the lead (Zhou Guanyu).
“W14 is much more stable and behaves in a much calmer way than the W13,” adds Andrew Shovlin, director of track engineering, satisfied that the lack of incidents means that the Stuttgart manufacturer meets the program that sets its agenda. “We have identified some key areas from which they extract a little more performance,” continues the Briton, who puts the Germans at a theoretical disadvantage compared to Red Bull.
“We will work with the idea that we have to make up lost ground, and we will focus on the need to find the maximum level of potential between now and the first race”, concludes the Briton. From doors inwards, that role of persecutor with which Mercedes is labeled is even more assumed. “We do not believe that we are going to be fast enough right from the start,” he admits to EL PAÍS, someone dressed in the jumpsuit of the giant of the star. “At least, not until a first update comes on the scene, which will arrive soon,” this authoritative voice clinches.
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