Mercedes open to admitting W13 concept ‘simply doesn’t work’

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton cuts the corner and the grass. Imola April 2022

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has an off at the Imola circuit, cuts the corner and the grass. Imola April 2022

Stopping short of potentially calling his W13’s design a flawed concept, Toto Wolff is open to admitting that what Mercedes have done “simply doesn’t work with the regulations”.

With all-new technical regulations in play this season, the Formula 1 grid looks very different to how it did last season as the teams put out their interpretations of the rules.

The new cars are based on ground effect aerodynamics meaning the floor and its vortexes creates the downforce that pulls the car onto the track. The more downforce, the more speed.

But while the likes of Ferrari, the championship leaders, have gone with a thick body with their baby bath sidepods, Mercedes went the complete opposite as they introduced zero-pods.

And that, pundits believe, is a large part of Mercedes’ porpoising problem.

While most of the teams are suffering with the bouncing to some degree, Mercedes’ is extreme even when the car is not at full pace as the zero-pods means there is nothing helping with the floor’s rigidity.

It begs the question has the Brackley squad, yet to win a grand prix this season, made a mistake with their design.

“It is a valid point,” Wolff told BBC.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton leads his team-mate George Russell, both on the soft Pirelli tyres. Bahrain March 2022

“All of the goodness and badness happens mainly on the floor and we have interesting ideas and concepts that we are exploring that have to find their way onto the car in the next few races.

“I wouldn’t say there is such thing as a concept being wrong. But is there a part of what we have done that simply doesn’t work with the regulations, and what is it?

“You don’t need to throw away the goodness, but if there are fundamental areas that don’t allow us to unlock the potential that we believe is in the car, then you need to cut your losses.”

Wolff, though, is not willing to scrap the concept especially as the cars are in their infancy, only four races into the championship.

“It would mean you say, ‘Where is the baseline now?'” said the motorsport boss. “Is there a new one we can start on where we believe we can unlock more potential?

“(But) if we thought that, we would have done it five months ago. We believed this was the development line we needed to take. So it is quite a tricky exercise.

“You can only cut the losses into next year if you understand where we got it wrong, because at the moment we simply don’t. Not yet.”

In fact the Austrian reckons Mercedes just need to find the “key” to the unlocking the car’s potential. They can see the lock, they just can’t find the key.

“We have a direction to unlock the potential in the car to bring us much closer but at the moment we haven’t got the key,” he added.

“So we just need to grind away and rely on the science and physics before spiralling into some kind of negative momentum, which we are not.”


As for Lewis Hamilton, the reigning World Champion finishing P13 in Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix while his team-mate George Russell was fourth, he says it is too soon to say whether Mercedes have gone down the wrong road.

“It’s all questions that are reasonable. I can’t say whether the concept is flawed; I am not an aerodynamicist,” he said.

“At some stage we will have a better understanding of whether that is the case or not.

“Maybe all of a sudden we will fix the bouncing and unlock more potential. It is difficult it write it off. Hopefully it will come to light soon and then we can start putting our focus on to the solution because we haven’t found the solution yet.”