Mercedes hold late-night investigation after ‘strange loss of downforce’

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton nose change for the W14. Bahrain February 2023

Lewis Hamilton nose change for the W14. Bahrain February 2023

Baffled by a strange loss of downforce in Friday’s testing, Mercedes held late-night investigations in a bid to find a solution.

Although Mercedes declared on Thursday, the opening day of pre-season testing, that they were happy with the direction in which they were going, that all changed on Friday.

The W14 suffered a sudden loss of performance, reportedly due what Auto Motor und Sport billed as a ‘strange loss of downforce on the front axle’, with Mercedes unable to establish the cause.

This led to late night talks, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell spotted in talks with team boss Toto Wolff and several of the team’s engineers.

“We’re a bit lost, as we don’t know where we stand right now,” admitted Wolff.

The team was keen to find answers ahead of Saturday’s final day of testing.

Trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said: “We’ve not had a strong second day; stopping on track with a reliability issue wasn’t great and we have struggled to get the car balanced well across the changing conditions.

“We’ve got some investigations going on to understand why this has been such a challenge today when yesterday it was fairly straightforward. That work will continue into the night and no doubt we’ll understand more come the morning.

“It will be interesting tomorrow to see if we can understand the drop in performance and mitigate the lost track time.”

Mercedes lost track time in the afternoon while George Russell was behind the wheel, the car suffering a hydraulic issue.

Russell tried to limp back to the pits but the transmission got stuck in fourth gear and caused an unplanned stop at Turn 10.

Wolff had revealed earlier in the day, prior to Russell’s stoppage, that the car wasn’t performing as they’d hoped.

He told F1.TV: “The car is out of balance this morning, and you can see in the driving, leaving [tyre] marks on acceleration.

“It’s hot and we just didn’t find the right set-up for these conditions, which is part of the learning, I guess, with a new car.”

Asked if the situation was a concern, he replied: “Yeah, it definitely is because it’s not the driver who’s overdriving the tyres or pushing it, it’s the car that doesn’t give him enough grip from the rear.

“So this is something we need to sort out over the course of the journey.”