Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was satisfied with his team’s showing in first practice on the streets of Monaco, despite the W13 suffering from chronic bouncing.
Wolff believes Mercedes are set for a competitive showing this weekend at the Monaco Grand Prix despite an apparent return to the bouncing problems that have afflicted the W13 for most of the season.
George Russell led the charge for the Brackley-based team as he finished FP1 in eighth, 0.680 seconds slower than Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc managed as the fastest time. Lewis Hamilton was a further three tenths of a second back as he placed 10th at the chequered flag.
Hamilton had visibly struggled with the handling of his car throughout, complaining about an intense level of bouncing that hampered his session.
But unlike the ground effect-based porpoising that has been prevalent since the start of the season, Wolff explained the bouncing is linked more to ride height rather than being a symptom of the team’s aerodynamic deficiencies returning.
“I think we have a ride issue,” he told Sky Sports F1 after first practice.
“It’s something we’ve had through the season and on the bouncing, sometimes it’s a combination between aero and stiffness. Today, it’s the stiffness.”
As a result, Wolff was pleased with the pace shown on track considering the level of bouncing.
“It looks like our car performs because we were quick,” he said.
“Maybe not at the end when we were on the hard tyres and doing the long runs but overall I think it’s a good car. It’s just undriveable like this.”
Tricky opening session to our #MonacoGP weekend.
P8 and P10 for George and Lewis, battling with bouncing around the bumpy Monte Carlo streets. pic.twitter.com/wWJWlOroWK
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) May 27, 2022
Wolff said plenty of work will be done to rectify the issue throughout the weekend and that plenty of padding can be given to the drivers to cope with the physical nature of the bouncing if necessary – Hamilton had requested elbow padding during the session.
“I think [we can] work on the set-up and try to make it a little bit more enjoyable for them,” the team boss explained.
“Of course, you want to have a fast car – if it’s fast, we’ll make him all the pads [Lewis] needs!”
Nico Rosberg, the 2016 F1 World Champion, explained the balancing act Mercedes will have to do to figure out the best compromise between the ride height and spring softness.
“To explain, running the car one millimetre lower, at the moment, is three hundredths of a second per lap – it’s unbelievable,” Rosberg said.
“So they are looking to lower it as much as possible.
“To go lower, you have to run the springs and everything stiffer. Then if you run all that stiffer, mechanically, over every bump, the car will just be much more unsettled. That causes locking, snaps and everything. It’s that balance you need to try and find.”
Referring to the spring set-up on the car, Rosberg said the option is there to make the chassis itself less stiff when riding the bumps.
“You can open up the gap and you can make the spring itself softer and the whole thing just gets softer,” he said.
“The problem is, if you now go up three millimetres with the car and you make the spring softer, aerodynamically you’re gonna go a tenth of a second slower per lap!
“You just have to guess and hope the better ride will over-compromise that and make you three tenths faster just from the ride, but that’s something you can’t calculate. So it’s a horrible set-up decision to make because you just don’t know how the ride will actually improve.”