Compared to expectations at the start of the year, this Mercedes is clearly a failure in terms of performance and results.
The other teams are not wrong either: Aston Martin F1 and Williams have recently made developments inspired not by Mercedes design, with zero points; but from Red Bull’s design. As an admission of failure for Mercedes by customer teams…
In the face of rejection by the timer and the other teams, should Mercedes persist in sticking to its zero-piercing design next year? Or do developments at Silverstone give new hope?
Mike Elliott, Mercedes technical director and successor to James Allison, began by putting the visible differences into perspective.
“People look at the car, look at the differences and think ‘it’s huge, that must explain the big difference between the teams’. »
“I think an aerodynamicist would tell you that the really important parts are the ones under the floor, the spoiler and the main aerodynamic structures. Whether the body contributes to this is not the main feature. »
“There’s been a lot of talk about how difficult what we’ve done with the narrow pontoons, which means you have a big floor. Managing that and managing that rigidity is a challenge. »
“We, like probably all teams, will evaluate what we have, see what others have done and find out what we think is the right way forward. And for us, up until now, the goal has been to generate as much understanding as possible, as quickly as possible, and then figure out the right things to do from there. »
For Elliott, therefore, it is too early to say that Adrian Newey was right about him and James Allison: he still doesn’t know who, Mercedes or Red Bull, made the right choice in the medium term. Aside from something like “the best design”… does it really exist in F1?
“Do we have the right concept? It’s almost impossible to say because we only play with our cars, we never play with other people’s cars. When it comes to the mechanical aspects of the car, we are learning like everyone else and I’m sure there is more to gain in this area. »
“But we have to keep working hard. We’re being honest with ourselves, we haven’t started off on the right foot and we just need to see where our weaknesses are, see how we can improve and keep making those improvements as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. »
“The body part, which is visibly different, is probably not the main differentiator, but the detail in the floor design. We evaluated some concepts in this sense. »
Wouldn’t copying Red Bull’s design also be a bit demeaning for Mercedes? Does this psychological factor come into play?
“I won’t say which direction we’re going in, but let’s look at it. I think we’d be foolish if we didn’t have some level of humility in thinking that we were potentially wrong and looking at what everyone else has done. And it’s not just Red’s concept. Bull, is looking at all the concepts up and down the grid and saying what looks interesting and why. »
So everything is still open for Mercedes, confirms its technical director.
“What you’re trying to do is figure out what’s going on in the airflow, figure out what you want to do with it, and develop the body shapes from there. So let’s look and say: What do you think the Red Bull body is doing and why? And the same for all the other cars above and below the grid, to see what we can learn from that. »
“We’ll see what we can apply and maybe you’ll see changes this year, maybe you’ll see changes next year or maybe we’ll stay where we are. These are the questions we try to answer. »
If Mike Elliott holds out hope in his team’s current design, it is in particular thanks to the developments at Barcelona and Silverstone this weekend.
In particular, porpoising appears to have been greatly reduced, although the Silverstone track helps because it is less bumpy.
“It’s pretty obvious looking at the car, we made a big change in Barcelona in the way we tried to use aerodynamics. »
“By doing so, we’ve made some good progress on porpoiing. But we did that by likely compromising some of the car’s overall aerodynamic performance. »
“So this update was really there to try and reduce porpoising, trying to add performance to the car and really making progress on the lap times. And the goal is to do that without compromising the jump or any other negative aspects we may have had. »