Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe
Formula 1 Emilia Romagna GP

The ‘small duvet’ problem that Mercedes thinks it can put to bed

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff’s caution this week that it will be several races before his Formula 1 team’s upgrades bear fruit can be viewed in one of two ways.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

It could be interpreted as a depressing moment for drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell to feel that they need to tread water for a bit longer with a car that they know is not yet delivering what is hoped for.

But, on the other hand, Wolff’s statement suggests the team knows what has gone wrong and exactly what needs to be done to get it sorted. So, it is encouraging that the plan and timetable are in place.

From Hamilton’s perspective, the situation is much more the latter.

“I wouldn't say it's depressing - it's just a patience game,” said Hamilton at Imola. “You are just making do with what you have, making the most of the tools that you have at your disposal today, tomorrow and this weekend. But it is really encouraging that we are seeing progress back in the factory and the wind tunnel.

“We do have new components coming and that's always an exciting part of the processes: trying lots of different things and then finding out what works and what doesn't. And the fact that we do have kind of a direction forwards, and we've tested it on the simulator, then you're just like itching to get those bits."

While there is no public confirmation about the timing of the Mercedes upgrades, it is understood that the plan is to have the full package in place for the Canadian Grand Prix next month – although parts could be brought forward to Monaco if they are ready in time.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team, in the garage with Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team and Peter Bonnington, Senior Race Engineer, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team, in the garage with Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team and Peter Bonnington, Senior Race Engineer, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

And the explanation for Hamilton’s hint at Mercedes having a "direction" is believed to refer to the team's focus on curing one of the key weaknesses of the W15 that has been exposed this season.

The German manufacturer has been convinced that there is plenty of goodness in its 2024 challenger, but the difficulty has been in extracting all of it.

Around the time of the Saudi Arabian GP, it felt that the car was pretty competitive in low- and medium-speed corners, but was simply struggling in the high speed.

Attention focused on sorting out those high-speed problems but, in moving the performance parameters of its car to show better in that area, it found that its low-speed pace was compromised.

As Wolff said about the evidence from Suzuka, where the car had been brilliant through the Esses: “You gain half a second in the high speed, but you lose half a second in the low speed. The equation is back to zero.”

For Mercedes, the task – and the focus of the upgrades – has therefore been about addressing the weaknesses without robbing it of its strengths.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

It has been likened by someone within the team to the problem of sleeping in a cold room with too small a duvet. If you keep your body warm, then your feet get exposed – but move the duvet to keep your toes toasty then you suffer elsewhere. Mercedes’ task is in making a bigger duvet so everything is under the covers.

Mercedes is certainly not alone in dealing with this problem, because it is something that every team is facing.

As Ferrari’s Jock Clear said: “We're always looking to close that gap. Closing that gap is just closing the balance window - giving the car a very consistent balance, high speed and low speed, so they [the drivers] know what they're going to get.

“When these cars were launched 18 months ago, they were a bit messy. Some speeds they were really, really good, other speeds they were like, ‘oh my God, this car is terrible.’ And we're all narrowing that balance shift or that balance window.”

After many false dawns for Mercedes in the current ground effect era, the team is taking nothing for granted that its latest upgrade focus is guaranteed to deliver it the pace needed to match Red Bull.

But for technical director James Allison, there is a clear sense it is finally moving in the right direction, and it can overcome its small duvet issue.

James Allison, Technical Director, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team, in the Team Principals Press Conference

James Allison, Technical Director, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team, in the Team Principals Press Conference

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“I think we're gradually getting there,” he said. “This track is probably one of the easier ones in that regard because the range of cornering speed is not that high.

“It's a thing that all of us face and I think we've been a little slower than others to address it. But I think that you'll see over the coming races that that will be a thing that increasingly we put to bed.”

Read Also:

Be part of the Autosport community

Join the conversation
Previous article Aston Martin's major F1 Imola upgrade a clue of "aggressive" development
Next article F1 Imola GP: Piastri leads McLaren 1-2 in FP3 as Perez and Alonso crash out

Top Comments

There are no comments at the moment. Would you like to write one?

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe