Mercedes explain sudden W14 pace surge at the end of Hungarian Grand Prix

Jamie Woodhouse
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton flashes past in final practice at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton flashes past in final practice at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

Mercedes say they are investigating why their predictions left them with cooling issues for much of the Hungarian GP, explaining their initial lack of performance.

Lewis Hamilton upset the odds by claiming his 104th career pole at the Hungaroring, pipping Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to that P1 spot by a mere 0.003 seconds.

There was a real chance then heading into race day that Hamilton could end Red Bull’s undefeated F1 2023 streak and return to the top step of the podium for the first time since 2021, but those hopes faded fast.

Mercedes W14 undercooled in Hungary

Hamilton was shuffled down from pole to P4 in the opening corners of the race, Hamilton then dropping back from Verstappen and the McLaren pair of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri.

As the deficit to Piastri reached 10 seconds, Hamilton even came over team radio to ask if Mercedes had turned his engine down?

As it turned out, Mercedes had got their cooling calculations wrong and so Hamilton and team-mate George Russell were left needing to lift and coast.

Towards the end of the race Hamilton then unlocked a chunk of performance, re-passing Piastri and pursuing Sergio Perez in the Red Bull in the final podium position, while Russell went from P18 on the grid to a P6 finish.

Mercedes explained then that as the supply of clear air became more plentiful later in the race, they were able to get the cooling under control, while tyre management was also strong, resulting in that turnaround of their pace. recommends

F1 Driver of the Day: Who has won the award in F1 2023?

Fastest F1 pit stops: Red Bull set new standard in record-breaking Hungary win

Asked as part of Mercedes’ Hungarian GP debrief why the W14 was fast at the end of the race but not the start, trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said: “We had one issue where the way that we predicted the cooling had meant that we were undercooled, so we are investigating why that wasn’t in line with expectation.

“The consequence was that we had to ask the drivers to do lift and coast. This is where before they get to the end of the straight, they come off the throttle and the first bit of the entry phase to the corner they are doing without brakes, then they pick up the brakes later. This helps cool the power unit, but it costs lap time.

“It also meant that neither driver could really attack the cars ahead of them. Later in the race, we got into clearer air, so things were in a better window in terms of the temperatures. We could let them attack the cars ahead and we were able to show better pace.

“It was also that the degradation of the tyres was good. The end of our stints were looking better than the early parts of the stints. You could see that trend and decent performance, particularly for George, at the end of that first stint where he was going very well.”

With Hamilton claiming P4 and Russell P6, Mercedes were able to extend their buffer in P2 in the Constructors’ Championship over Aston Martin to 39 points.

Read next: Rosberg could have won eight in a row if Hamilton didn’t ‘shunt me off in Barcelona’