Finishing Friday’s practice in the drop zone had it been qualifying, Andrew Shovlin concedes Mercedes don’t yet have a “really good grasp of everything” that’s going on with the new generation of cars.
Putting ground effect aerodynamic cars on the grid last season, cars that have their downforce created more by the floor than the bodywork, Mercedes were unable to take the fight to Red Bull with Adrian Newey’s RB18 the pick of the field.
This season the Red Bull design guru has taken it even further, his RB19 winning all ten of this season’s grands prix, forcing rivals – including Mercedes – to knock on the door of B-spec cars in order to try to close the gap.
Lewis Hamilton explains the conundrum facing Mercedes
But while several of today’s cars now draw inspiration from the Red Bull bodywork, it’s still the floor that holds the majority of the secrets to success. Success that Mercedes have yet to grasp.
Friday’s practice at the Hungarian Grand Prix saw Lewis Hamilton finish down in 16th place, a second off the pace set by the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, while George Russell was 19th.
Sky Sports’ Martin Brundle issued a damning verdict, saying: “The Mercedes looks like the worst car here, nowhere do both drivers have to row so much with the steering wheel.”
Hamilton revealed the team is still struggling to get on top of the new car’s vortices as that’s where the magic is created.
“The thing we can’t see is the airflow throughout the car,” said the seven-time World Champion. “That is just limited when you look in the wind tunnel because there’s only a certain amount you can move the car.
“There’s simulations with the new rules that we have, and all the new tools we have had to create and understand the flow structures underneath the car.
“All those vortices would blow your mind if you saw what’s happening underneath the car, which is a lot different to the previous generations of cars. Working through that just takes time.
“And obviously, you’re very limited with resources as well. So you have to be careful which decisions you make.
“If you go full steam ahead in one direction, you could lose weeks of development and it could be tenths of performance, so you have to have to be very methodical in the way they go through that process. I wish it was faster but unfortunately, it is not.”
Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin was asked about his driver’s comments on Friday with the Briton conceding Mercedes are not at the same place with today’s generation of cars as they were in their understanding of the 2021 machines.
“Well, with the old regulations, which we had a good grasp on, you didn’t need to consider the car in the same dynamic sense,” he said. “You were just saying it’s at a certain roll angle, steer angle, certain ride heights and in doing that, you could capture what was going on.
“The flow structures under our car, under every car, are more complicated now and they’re more transient.
“And what Lewis was referring to was really the fact that, as other teams will have had to develop their tools to cope with this new set of aero regulations, we’re getting to a stage where the correlation is good, we can start to understand the effect of changes.
“But we’re not at the position we were with the regulations in 2020/2021 where you had a really, really good grasp of everything that was going on. So he’s just referring to the fact that the way the floors work is more complicated than it used to be.”
Mercedes are second in the Constructors’ Championship but trail Red Bull by 208 points.