"We were "overly optimistic", admits Shovlin


Mercedes Trackside Engineering Director, Andrew Shovlin admits that the German team was "overly optimistic" in its approach to the 2022 rules overhaul.

As early as pre-season testing it was clear the world champions had a problem, the porpoising issue getting worse as the season continued.

However, while a number of teams suffered similar issues due to the rules overhaul's reliance on ground effects, Mercedes had also taken a unique approach in terms of its 'zeropod' sidepod concept which exacerbated the issue courtesy of the flexing of the unsupported floor.

"That learning is all quite valuable, and we like to keep that within the team," says Shovlin, of the lessons the team has learned from the (appropriately designated) W13.

"It has been a very interesting journey," he adds. "I think we were overly optimistic in where we thought we could run the car. The car that we launched had a lot of downforce close to the ground, and there were a lot of issues being able to actually run the car on track there.

"It's no secret in the pit lane that people have been trying to get their cars further off the road, to try and make them better able to cope with bumps, and then to avoid them hitting the ground where you lose a lot of the grip at once it's all going through the plank.

"But really just looking also at how the car is balanced through the speed range, through the different phases of the corner, in general, we just haven't had enough performance on it," he admits. "It's not just that where we have the downforce was in the wrong region, we're just behind on performance. So there's a lot of areas that we've been working on.

"The focus for this year changed relatively early to one of learning, making sure we can get back to a competitive position next year. The signs that we've seen over the last six or seven races have been encouraging.

"We're not where we would like to be," he admits, "but the direction of travel looks okay. So we're working very hard to try and improve that."

Despite the punishment Lewis Hamilton suffered in Baku, the fact is that gradually Mercedes has got its season back on track, and though that first win of the season is proving elusive, other than Spa there has been at least one of the Silver Arrows drivers on the podium ever since.

"Spa was quite interesting," says Shovlin. "It was quite painful at the time, but we've often said that our worst weekends are the ones that reward us with the most learning.

"It certainly focuses your attention, and when you see these performance swings track to track, you can start to see, even with a GPS, which corners are you losing in, what speed range, you can start to understand how your car's working, you can get an insight into how competitors' cars are working.

"The learning that we took from that does give us an indication of where we need to develop the car in future.

"Zandvoort, we were expecting to be more competitive, so it was reassuring that that played out. The underlying problem is sort of rooted in how we've developed the car and how it's working as an aerodynamic package."

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Published: 23/09/2022
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