The one mistake Mercedes made with the W13 will remain a mystery

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton driving at Monza in the Mercedes W13. Monza, September 2022.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton turns round a corner during a practice session for the Italian Grand Prix. Monza, September 2022.

Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott highlighted that the team made an error partway through last season in designing their current car, which has had negative effects on their performance this season.

Regarding specifics, however, he remained tight-lipped.

Mercedes began the season with a car heavily affected by porpoising and bouncing – potentially the hardest-hit team on the grid – with the introduction of ground effect aerodynamics as part of Formula 1’s mass regulation changes brought in for 2022.

The W13 proved difficult to drive as a result, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell often a second per lap off the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari for the majority of the season.

It also proved to be something of a health hazard for the drivers, with the car’s bouncing putting significant strain on the drivers’ backs – as evidenced in Azerbaijan in particular, with Hamilton admitting he had “prayed for the race to end” while being in a significant amount of pain.

The bouncing issues on the W13 have eased as the season has progressed and Mercedes have been competitive at certain circuits this year, but have not put up a sustained challenge to the top two teams.

And regarding the team’s mistake, Elliott says it has been identified, and the team will “correct it” over time.

“When you look at a car, you have to sort of look at it as a whole,” he explained on the Beyond the Grid podcast.

“And when you sort of think about strengths and weaknesses, we could probably talk circuit to circuit, but I think we look back and you look at how we developed the car, and I could point to one moment in time last year, where we did something that I think we made a mistake, and what you’re seeing in terms of performance at the track and the way it swings from race to race is a consequence of that.

“And that’s a mistake we’ve known about for a little while. And it’s something we’ve been correcting.

“And that’s why our performance has gradually got better, but it’s not something that we can fully correct for a little while yet. We will do over the winter.”

Elliott would not elaborate further on the precise error the team had made, but given the complete change of design philosophy required for the new regulatory era of Formula 1, he admitted there was just something not quite right within the W13.

“I can’t tell you in the technical detail because it’s something we wouldn’t want to give away, but I can tell you that these cars are complicated,” he said.

“And in order to get to the right solution, you have to get the best out of vehicle dynamics, aerodynamics, tyres, the way the chassis works mechanically.

“When you make these compromises that are technically difficult, when you look at this year’s car versus last year’s car, they fundamentally run in a completely different way.

“You know, they run close to the ground, obviously seeing the problems of bouncing, and so making that transition from what we were doing last year to this year, we got something slightly wrong.”

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