Mercedes: What’s gone wrong at the F1 and can they recover?
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People outside of Mercedes in the Formula One paddock have a suspicion over what the ‘root of the problem’ is for the team and Lewis Hamilton in particular, it has been claimed. The reigning world champions are well adrift in the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships this season with their firm grip on the latter set to be relinquished by Ferrari or Red Bull later this year.
Although newcomer George Russell has managed top-five finishes in all five races of the season so far, Hamilton has struggled and has recorded finishes of P3, P10, P4, P13 and P6. Hamilton is 23 points behind Russell, who is fourth in the standings, and 66 adrift of championship leader Charles Leclerc after the Miami Grand Prix.
Mercedes have struggled in particular with porpoising, which sees the car visibly bounce up and down at high speed. Ferrari have also endured the issue but it has not affected their pace unlike how it has hampered the Silver Arrows, whose team principal Toto Wolff has admitted are “no man’s land” in between title-fighting Ferrari and Red Bull and the midfield teams.
And BBC Sport report that amid Mercedes’ struggles, there are many outside of the team within F1 who suspect the W13’s concept is hurting them. The car is different to its peers in that it has slimline sidepods and a more exposed floor at the rear.
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Mercedes, who have won all of the last eight team titles since 2014, have admitted they could even return to the previous car design they had at testing in Barcelona, which had less radical sidepods. Wolff added: “I wouldn’t discount anything, but we need to give all of our people who have produced great racecars in the past the benefit of the doubt, and we believe this is the route to go down.
“Barcelona [for the Spanish Grand Prix] is definitely going to be a point in time when we are able to correlate with what we’ve seen in February [at testing] and gather more data. As a matter of fact, we need to understand – before you make a decision to switch to another concept – where did this one go wrong? What is the goodness of the concept and what is the badness of the concept?
“That is a question you can only respond to yourself, but I would be asking ourselves to get an answer after Barcelona because that’s the real correlation we have. It’s clear that there is potential in the car, which is fast. But we just don’t understand how to unlock the potential.”
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Seven-time world champion Hamilton however said after Miami: “Unfortunately not. We were the same speed as we were in the first race. We’ve just got to keep trying. We have not improved in these five races.
“I’m hopeful that at some stage we will but we have just got to keep trying, keep working hard. The porpoising was not as bad in Miami – it can vary from track to track, from race to race. It wasn’t really bad in Miami… but we were just not fast.”
Hamilton, Wolff and Mercedes return to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the Spanish Grand Prix on May 20-22. Hamilton has won the last five Grands Prix in Barcelona, but that streak will surely come to an end later this month.
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