How Mercedes F1 escapes its false dawns

The Brackley team is always cautious about placing too much importance on specific results in Formula 1especially when wins such as the Austrian Grand Prix are largely down to the problems of other cars. Having faced the grim reality of several false dawns in the current ground-effect era, they are always fearful that a leap forward in performance will prove to be a flash in the pan before suffering again soon after.

While it is true that the victory at the Red Bull Ring was helped by the collision between Lando Norris and Max Verstappen, it is also true that, even without the accident, It would have been the team’s third consecutive podium.proving that the progress since the Monaco Grand Prix is ​​real. Such a run of form is not something they have been able to boast about in the past year and a half, as they failed to find consistent progress with their car.

In fact, there were many occasions when good results at one time gave him the wrong picture of his situation, which cost him dearly and caused him to set back. Nothing demonstrated this better than his triumph at the 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prixwhen they allowed themselves to believe that they had finally managed to understand the current ground effect regulations, only to collapse again at the start of the following season.

However, while George Russell celebrates his and the team’s first win since that weekend at Interlagos, there is a very different atmosphere in the team. In fact, There is a feeling that the staff at the Brackley factory finally understand and know what is needed. so that the single-seaters continue to push in the current direction.

The director of Mercedes, Toto Wolffhe reflected on this while enjoying success at the Austrian Grand Prix, and looking forward to the moment when the team could win a race on sheer pace: “I think we bring upgrades to almost every race now. The factory is running flat out, in the last twelve years we’ve never been able to develop, design, manufacture, take to the track and have the quality of the parts, seriously, I’ve never seen that pace.

“So at every race we’ve brought improvements, hopefully by the summer break we can take another step,” he said. “Everyone else is working hard and they’re formidable teams, but if we can close that gap a little bit – I think it was fifteen seconds over 70 laps – that’s fine. That’s third place and hopefully if we can halve that then we can compete.”

The Austrian’s confidence that current form is backed up by his engineers, who think things are improving thanks to a greater understanding of the dynamics of your W15And the more your team is able to gather information about what works and what doesn’t, the better they can extract from their package.

Trackside engineering director, Andrew ShovlinHe said: “You gain more confidence the more circuits you try. Before we had a car that, if you put it in the window, all it took was a change of wind direction or track temperature for it to suddenly become unbalanced, and so we could be doing well on Friday and then suddenly have problems on Saturday.”

“With the changes we’ve made, the car behaves more normally. The drivers don’t complain about oversteer – if there’s a general problem, it’s easy to see what it is. If it’s understeering everywhere, we can fix it, so it’s easier to work with, but the most important thing is that the correlation in the simulator has improved,” he explained. “Before, we had no chance, because if five degrees of track temperature or a thirty-degree turn in the wind throws you off balance, it’s no wonder the simulator had trouble picking up all those effects.”

The engineering manager believes that The intensity of the season has led to a greater understanding of the carallowing him to use a lot more data in his simulations to further improve his results: “Today, developing a car is much easier when you’re racing all the time and you get data that confirms that the things you’re doing are making the car go faster.”

As a last resort, Andrew Shovlin believes what is now being seen on the track is confirmation that not only does the team have the right parts in its W15 to move forward, but it is being fed by a factory that has the right ideas and tools to improve them: “I think we have definitely found development directions that have made us faster, like all teams. The question is whether you are developing as fast as the others.”

“When we had a car that inherently didn’t want to balance itself, you couldn’t get it to work well in all the corners of a circuit, so it’s a difficult thing to deal with beyond correlation,” he said. “Now we have a car that works well at low speed, at high speed, at medium speed, and brakes well. There are always areas to improve, and you’re always going to be chasing someone, or you are most of the time, but it seems that the improvements to the car are what have helped in that correlation exercise as well.”

All that left Mercedes with the feeling that their podium run is a springboard to a better second half of the year where victories will not depend on others stumbling. As Toto Wolff added: “There is certainly a big push in the team now to get to a point where we are able to fight with real performance for victory, and I think we will achieve that.”

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