Mercedes Solving Porpoising Issues, Show Signs of Life at F1 Spanish Grand Prix

·3 min read
Photo credit: Peter J Fox - Getty Images
Photo credit: Peter J Fox - Getty Images

As soon as anyone at Mercedes was questioned about the limitations of its W13 across the opening five events of the Formula 1 season there was a swift response: the bouncing.

Mercedes believed the phenomenon triggered by the return of ground effect was severely hampering its performance. Not only did it deny Mercedes the chance to slot its W13 into the operating window it was designed for but it meant Mercedes had to divert its resources into trying to understand a problem rather than addressing other areas of the car.

Mercedes demonstrated glimpses of potential in Miami and consolidated those gains with the updates it introduced in Barcelona. It remained third-fastest but was in the mix up front rather than trying to claw its way out of the midfield. George Russell qualified fourth, six-tenths off pole, while Lewis Hamilton conceded he should have done better than sixth.

Photo credit: Peter J Fox - Getty Images
Photo credit: Peter J Fox - Getty Images

On race day, Russell finished third and Hamilton fifth.

“We’ve brought bits that definitely settled the car down,” said Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott.

“I think we have made a solid step forward this weekend, and we know how to unlock more performance, too,” added team principal Toto Wolff. “Our rivals have continued development while we have paused to solve the bouncing—so when we pick that up and start to better understand the tires now the bouncing is gone, then I think we will be closing them down.”

The drivers were also buoyed by the relative performance of the car; the bouncing was still in evidence through Turn 3 and Turn 9 in qualifying but it was no longer violently shaking along the straights. And in race trim both drivers had by far their strongest performance of the season with outstanding respective displays.

Russell was superb in defending against the faster Verstappen and fully merited his podium while Hamilton put in an astonishing recovery after first-lap contact with Kevin Magnussen left him with a puncture. From last Hamilton carved through the field to classify fifth, with team boss Wolff suggesting Hamilton had the pace to battle for the win without the first-lap incident.

Photo credit: ANP - Getty Images
Photo credit: ANP - Getty Images

“We’re making progress and as a team we’ve turned the page and feel like this is probably the start of our season now,” said Russell after the race. “I think we’ve probably halved the gap to the front-runners compared to the rest of the season, I think we know there’s more performance to find. It’s been a season of problem solving as opposed to finding more performance and bring more performance to the car. I think we’ve finally solved our issue and we can now focus on bringing more performance, so yeah, we’re six races behind but there’s no reason why we can’t claw this back.”

Hamilton asserted that “we have made a lot of improvements with the car and the race pace is much better. It is a great sign we are going in the right direction and that gives me great hope that at some stage we will be fighting for a win.”

The reigning champions remain third-best but the team is now in a position to have optimism and hard evidence that a turnaround is possible, rather than just flying with blind faith.

UPDATED DRIVERS' STANDINGS

  1. Max Verstappen 110

  2. Charles Leclerc 104

  3. Sergio Perez 85

  4. George Russell 74

  5. Carlos Sainz 65

  6. Lewis Hamilton 46

  7. Lando Norris 39

  8. Valtteri Bottas 38

  9. Esteban Ocon 30

  10. Kevin Magnussen 15

  11. Yuki Tsunoda 11

  12. Daniel Ricciardo 11

  13. Pierre Gasly 6

  14. Sebastian Vettel 4

  15. Fernando Alonso 4

  16. Alex Albon 3

  17. Lance Stroll 2

  18. Zhou Guanyo 1

  19. Mick Schumacher 0

  20. Nico Hulkenberg 0

  21. Nicholas Latifi 0

UPDATED CONSTRUCTORS' STANDINGS

  1. Red Bull 195

  2. Ferrari 169

  3. Mercedes 120

  4. McLaren 50

  5. Alfa Romeo 39

  6. Alpine 34

  7. AlphaTauri 17

  8. Haas 15

  9. Aston Martin 6

  10. Williams 3