Mercedes W15 driver grilled on potential correlation issues amid Toto Wolff’s ‘simulation’ concerns

Oliver Harden
Lewis Hamilton surrounded by engineers in the garage with a prominent Mercedes logo alongside him

Lewis Hamilton has endured a difficult start to his final season with Mercedes

Mercedes W15 simulator driver Anthony Davidson has been grilled on suggestions that the team are battling correlation issues with their F1 2024 car, admitting “it’s an interesting topic right now.”

Having been restricted to just a single race win since F1’s technical regulations were overhauled in 2022, Mercedes are hoping to return to victory contention with the W15 in 2024.

Correlation issues with the Mercedes W15?

James Allison, the technical director who has overseen the development of the car, revealed last winter that the W15 would be enough to put Mercedes “in with a shout” of winning both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships having established “a pretty ambitious program” with the new car.

However, Mercedes have suffered a muted start to the season with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finishing no higher than fifth in the opening two races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, where reigning Champions Red Bull claimed consecutive one-two finishes.

After a poor performance in Jeddah, where Hamilton was classified a disappointing ninth, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff hinted the team are struggling with correlation between their simulation data and real-life performance on the track before conceding that the Silver Arrows’ problems are “fundamental.” recommends

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He said: “Our simulations point us in a direction and this is the kind of setup range that we then choose, we put the right rear wing on and I think you gain a few tenths or not if you get the setup right or wrong, but it’s not a massive corridor of performance.

“It’s a more fundamental thing that we believe that the speed should be there and we measure the downforce, but we don’t find it on the lap time.”

Appearing on the Sky F1 podcast, long-serving Mercedes simulator driver Davidson appeared to swerve the subject when quizzed on a potential correlation problem within the Brackley-based team.

Asked to shed more light on the situation, Davidson said: “It’s a really interesting question [and an] interesting topic right now.

“I did a lot of the pre-event work for for Saudi Arabia – and Melbourne actually – using different wing levels and, without giving too much away, Jeddah and Bahrain are two very different tracks.

“When you start the season, you have to look at your options of wing levels and also your budget because it’s in the cost cap.

“You have to limit the amount of wings that you can physically make because the more you have, the more money you’ve spent, so you try to spread it thinly over the year.

“You want to look at all the different circuits and say: ‘If we can get away with only building two wings, and within those two wings we can run different gurney flaps to create a different parameter within that family of wing group, that can probably see us through the whole year and then we can spend money elsewhere like the floor, for example.’

“That’s what the teams are trying to do today.

“So you go from Bahrain, where you know it [requires] a high-downforce wing – and that wing you’ll see come up later in the year when we go to slower-speed circuits.

“Bahrain [has] heavy braking zones, very tight corners, and then you go to Jeddah, which is much higher speed, the fastest street track in the world, but it’s not quite Melbourne spec.

“So you go to Jeddah and you say: ‘You could run the Bahrain wing in its lowest-downforce form and see how we go, but you’ll probably have a really draggy car.’

“We saw a few of those cars out there in Jeddah – the McLaren, for example, was quite slow in a straight line, blisteringly fast through the higher-speed section of the track.

“So it just depends where you’ve targeted that tipping point to be before you’ve even started the season.”

Correlation problems are notoriously challenging for F1 teams to identify and fix, with Red Bull hamstrung by issues as recently as 2017.

It later transpired that the walls of the wind tunnel were too close to Red Bull’s 2017 wind tunnel model after F1 introduced wider cars that season, affecting the airflow and therefore sending the team down the wrong development path.

Read next: What performance is missing from the Mercedes W15? The four key areas to address