Mercedes expected some bouncing, but had no ‘indication of how serious’ it would be

Michelle Foster
George Russell of Mercedes makes a pit stop, soft tyres. Hungary July 2022

British driver George Russell of Mercedes makes a pit stop, soft tyres. Hungary July 2022

Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott admits while the team “didn’t expect there to be no problems” with porpoising, they had no idea how “serious the problem” was going to be when they put their W13 on the track.

Winners of eight successive Constructors’ Championships, no one thought when the all-new ground effect aerodynamic cars hit the track last season it would be Mercedes who got it wrong.

But they did, the team designing a car that suffered with severe porpoising, seemingly having the worst of it with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell complaining of back pain and headaches.

The problem didn’t catch Mercedes unawares as they expected some bouncing as it is a consequence of using ground effect aerodynamics to create downforce.

However, the severity of it came as a shock as they had no warning from either their wind tunnel runs or their CFD simulations.

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“We knew that the ground effect cars of the past had this phenomenon and we talked about it at the design stage as well,” Elliott, Mercedes’ technical director, told Auto Motor und Sport.

“We didn’t expect there to be no problems at all, but none of the simulations gave any indication of how serious the problem would be.

“I think everyone has had that experience. It is very difficult to replicate the problem in the wind tunnel and it would be very expensive to model it in CFD simulation.

“That’s why we didn’t use the resources allowed by the regulations in the CFD to simulate bouncing.”

Floor tweaks won’t ‘make much of a difference’

With Mercedes not alone in their concerns that porpoising could have a long-term impact on their drivers’ health, the FIA stepped in.

Acknowledging that the teams are likely to find more downforce during the off-season, downforce that would increase the likelihood of porpoising, motorsport’s governing body announced a few tweaks to the regulations.

The floor edges have been raised by 15 millimetres ahead of the 2023 season, the FIA initially pushing for 25mm, while the diffuser throat height has also been raised, which is aimed at making the underside of the car more tolerant to changes in dynamic ride height.

While some of the smaller teams have complained that even those minor tweaks will have a big impact on their 2023 cars, Elliott does “not think it will make much of a difference.”

“We will all find a way around it and adapt. It has not changed the starting point of our development.

“The downforce loss depends on the ground clearance you are driving with. It can be high, but also very small.”

Asked whether Mercedes will focus on creating a larger working window for the new W14, he replied: “Our goals will be different than 2022. Some of the problems stemmed from the aerodynamic goals we had set.

“We’ve already made changes and there will be more. We hope that’s enough to be up front again in 2023.”

Mercedes expected to stick with the zero-pod for the W14

While it was initially speculated that the zero-pod design was largely to blame for Mercedes’ severe bouncing, the team has refuted that and is expected to continue with that design philosophy with the W14.

Toto Wolff recently hinted at this, saying: “The last time I saw [the new car] in the wind tunnel, it still looked exactly like the current one]. But [the engineers] told me that it wasn’t.”

That wasn’t the first time the Mercedes motorsport boss hinted that the zero-pods would stay, also telling “The DNA of the 2023 car will be different from that of the current car, as we will change the architecture.

“But it does not necessarily mean that our chassis will look very different from that of the W13.”

Fans will get their first look at the W14 on February 15th, the day of Mercedes’ official 2023 launch.