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Mercedes planning Melbourne “experiments” with W15 F1 car

Mercedes Formula 1 trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin says the team is designing “experiments” for the Australian GP weekend in an attempt to solve issues with the W15.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

The car has been plagued by bouncing, especially with low fuel in qualifying, while its weakness in high-speed corners relative to rivals was very apparent in Saudi Arabia.

Shovlin suggests that the team will try different approaches at the upcoming Australian GP as it continues to hone the car.

"There's definitely data that we're picking through from Jeddah," he said.

"We're also looking at data from the Bahrain race, Bahrain test, and we will come up with a plan for how we approach free practice in Melbourne. But it's not just based on what we did in Jeddah.

"There's a lot of work going on within the aerodynamics department, vehicle dynamics department.

"We're trying to design some experiments there that will hopefully give us a direction that's good for performance."

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director, Mercedes-AMG

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Shovlin confirms that high-speed corner performance is one of the key issues that the team is looking at with an eye on Australia. He suggests that the weakness that proved costly in Bahrain was due to a combination of factors.

"It’s a few things," he said.

"One of them was the balance wasn't great. So those very fast corners, the walls aren't particularly far away – so the ones where the driver wants a lot of confidence – and quite often we were snapping to oversteer if they really leant on the tyres.

"And you can easily imagine how unsettling that is for the drivers. Now, that was a factor in qualifying and the race.

"In qualifying we were also suffering a bit with the bouncing. That was less of a problem in the race. There's more fuel on the car. You're going a bit slower. And that seemed to calm down, and wasn't such an issue.

"And then the big one is we don't really have enough grip there. So that's one of the things that we are working hard on this week, because Melbourne has similar nature of corners.

"So we're doing a lot of work to try and understand why did we not seem to have the grip of some of our close competitors."

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Shovlin notes that Lewis Hamilton and George Russell took different set-up directions over the Jeddah weekend.

"Some of that was they'd complained about bouncing," he explained. "So we were looking at ways of trying to improve that. You can play with ride heights, you can play with stiffness, and that all seems effective.

"And also they were just trying to tune the balance through the speed range. So what's the car like in the low-speed? What's it like in the high-speed?"

Although the cars later converged, Shovlin says that useful lessons were learned: “When you change things, you can see the differences. So, one car making changes, you can see how it performs run-to-run.

"We can also look at the global performance of the two cars, but fundamentally, the limitations that we had in qualifying and the race, they were broadly the same for both.

"So it's telling you it's not a small difference, it's not a tiny bit of camber or a spring or bar here and there. It's something more fundamental that we need to dig into and understand."

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