Mercedes pinpoint ‘alarm bells’ moment as their Brazil GP unravelled

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell run nose to tail in their Mercedes W14s during the Brazilian Grand Prix. F1 news

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell run nose to tail in their Mercedes W14s.

An emergency simulator session was among the action taken by Mercedes after their unexpected Brazil sprint slump got “alarm bells” ringing, but it was to no avail.

Mercedes suffered a bitterly disappointing outing at the Brazilian Grand Prix, where the usual strength of their W14, that being race pace, very much abandoned them.

Instead, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton found themselves sinking backwards, Hamilton finishing the Grand Prix P8, while Russell retired due to temperature issues with the Mercedes power unit.

Mercedes left with “bleak picture” after sprint struggles reaction

Speaking in Mercedes’ post-Brazil GP debrief, the team’s head of trackside performance Riccardo Musconi explained how in free practice, lasting just the one hour on what was a sprint weekend, the long-run pace looked solid.

However, Mercedes would find out this indication was not accurate, and even an impromptu simulator session back at base could not save them, with tyre degradation issues flooring the Silver Arrows.

“The long run pace we showed in free practice was quite reassuring,” said Musconi.

“We didn’t think that we needed to change the car around, so we went into qualifying, and the results were around the third row. In a way, we were not pleased with it, and we felt the car deserved more.

“The alarm bells went out during the sprint race because after the encouraging first two laps, the degradation of our car was quite high, mainly coming from the rear axle. At that stage we worried about our performance on the Sunday.

“We organised for a simulator session back at the factory, looking at the parameters we could change between Saturday and Sunday, as we are in parc fermé because it’s a sprint weekend.

“That doesn’t leave us with many tools to play with. We were hoping that addressing some of the issues we experienced on Saturday, like pushing very hard on the first couple of laps, doing a bit more management and trimming a bit the balance of the car with the flap, would have been enough to put us in a more comfortable position for Sunday.

“What came out of Sunday was quite a bleak picture, resemblant of our Saturday. We improved the degradation a bit on the rear axle but at the same time we started suffering from understeer, so the car was struggling to turn the corners. The pace therefore wasn’t there and we couldn’t compete at the front.”

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Starting from pit lane would have hurt Mercedes more

The last time that Formula 1 contested a sprint weekend, that being at the US Grand Prix, Aston Martin and Haas decided to breach parc fermé rules and make setup changes to their cars, accepting a pit-lane start for their troubles.

However, Musconi said this option was “off the table” for Mercedes, as the need to fight through the pack would have merely exacerbated their tyre wear issues.

“Did we consider changing the setup of the car? Well, we are in parc fermé throughout the weekend with the sprint regulations so if we were changing the setup on Saturday night, we’d have to take a pit-lane start on Sunday,” Musconi continued.

“That means that you are released after all the cars are passed by the pit exit, you need to catch up to the back of the pack and cut through it which causes tyre degradation. So, for us from a strategical point of view, it was off the table.”

Mercedes remain P2 in the Constructors’ Championship with two rounds of F1 2023 remaining, though their buffer over Ferrari has been cut to 20 points.

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