Mercedes said their “table of doom” model showed that they would not be able to repeat their Mexico/Sao Paulo showing in Abu Dhabi.
2022 represented a season of learning for Mercedes as they looked to tame their troublesome W13, which had begun the season off the leading pace and was bouncing far too much for their liking.
After a few false starts, Mercedes’ performance level increased in the latter stages of the season, the Sao Paulo GP being the highlight as George Russell claimed victory in the sprint and then won the main race, Lewis Hamilton making it a Mercedes one-two.
The season-ending Abu Dhabi GP was a far more difficult outing for Mercedes though as the pace deficit to Red Bull and Ferrari returned, especially over one lap.
It did not exactly come as a surprise to the team though, their chief strategist James Vowles explaining that their “table of doom” had shown the team that a trickier time in Abu Dhabi could be expected.
“I think you’ve probably heard Toto [Wolff] refer to the table of doom,” Vowles began as he spoke in Mercedes’ Abu Dhabi GP debrief. “This is something that we have constructed internally that allows us to somewhat predict where our car will be relative to certainly the fastest cars track on track and it worked fairly well.
“It’s something that actually had fairly good correlation across the season and it did say that in for example Mexico and Brazil we would be significantly more competitive than we were going to be in Abu Dhabi.
“It’s a function of the properties that make our car both strong and weak and that transpired to be true and as perhaps negative as it comes across, that’s a very good thing because it means that the properties of our car that we understand, we actually have a good grasp on them sufficiently so that they actually look to be real in real life and then the reasons behind it look to be correlated.”
Part of the reason, Vowles believes, is that Ferrari were not on top form in Mexico and Brazil, that changing in Abu Dhabi where Ferrari were fast on the straights and coped well with tyre degradation, a recent thorn in the side of the Scuderia.
“That obviously doesn’t answer the question as to why we weren’t as competitive,” Vowles continued. “Part of it is that I think Ferrari moved backwards across Mexico and Brazil, hard to explain why, but they definitely weren’t as competitive there as they were towards the end of the season in Abu Dhabi.
“They were a fierce rival in Abu Dhabi, very, very quick on the straight line and competitive overall with good tyre degradation.
“That doesn’t obviously explain Red Bull and why we moved back to them, but I think that is explained in the properties of where our car is weak and where it is strong and Brazil had a lot of cornering sequences, types of corners, speeds of corner that really suit the characteristics of our car which unfortunately we didn’t have in Abu Dhabi.
“The final one is Abu Dhabi is very, very cool conditions once we were really racing at night and we saw a few properties on the tyre, a little bit of graining appearing on the front axle and on the rear axle and that for sure hurt us in the race.”