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Mercedes: F1 ride control gains more critical than downforce improvements

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has selected “ride control” as the biggest limitation facing the team in 2023 as it works to create the “least s**ttiest” ground-effects Formula 1 car.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Fixes for the W14’s cockpit being placed too far forward relative to the front wheels, and the true impact of the technical switch of Mike Elliott and James Allison, likely will not be realised until 2024.

But after identifying design flaws with the car prior to Bahrain pre-season testing, a B-spec machine has been promised, with the first major upgrade set for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in late May.

Wolff has spoken of a “need to manage everyone’s expectations” regarding the step forward the developments will immediately deliver and has singled out “ride” as the biggest area of focus.

Wolff said of the coming tweaks: “The target is Imola. I just need to manage everyone’s expectations because we are talking so much about the upgrade that when we put it down on the track, we aren’t likely to run circles around Red Bull. It is going to be a good baseline, I think.”

Allison has already noted that the team is working to unlock more downforce while the drawing office has been tasked with penning a revised suspension.

This, Allison reckons, will “help the underlying balance of the car... to make it a more drivable”.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, leaves the garage

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, leaves the garage

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Expanding on the area of weakness, Wolff chose ride as “the main thing” for Mercedes, and that its performance in Baku was not defined by the car being draggy “because nobody overtook anybody”.

Fixing the ride would help Mercedes create the “least s**ttiest” car for the ground-effect rules.

Wolff continued: “For our car, it is more about the ride control than it is about sheer downforce.

“We could put a lot of downforce on the car but the car would be too low and too stiff.

“You can see on the onboards, [Red Bull] is barely moving and the speed on the straights, all the bumps, the car balance is easy. If you look at all the other onboards, it looks like the cars are tricky.

“I think generally the ground effect cars are s**t cars, it is just who has the least s**ttiest, isn’t it?”

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Wolff said that were it not for the F1 cost cap, Mercedes would bring an entirely new chassis during the season but has instead focused on the suspension and floor aero given the financial limitations.

He continued: “What we have to really decide carefully is what is it we want to upgrade - we're bringing a new front suspension to Imola and the aero upgrade that comes with it and floor.

He added: “If we get the platform right, it's less about adding 10 points of downforce.

“It's more about giving the drivers a car where, if they turn the wheel into the corner, they actually know the rear doesn't overtake them - that's the problem.”

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