Mercedes has been struggling with major problems since the start of the season. The W13 can’t be fired and that’s mainly due to porpoising, the hopping on the straights. As a result, the team has not been able to challenge Ferrari and Red Bull so far. They continue to look for improvement but the Spanish Grand Prix is a key gauge for the rest of the season. Since the teams also tested there earlier this year, it’s an excellent opportunity for Mercedes to compare the car’s behavior and different concepts. Especially now that Mercedes have made little progress so far, Barcelona will become important for the team. And so the question arises as to whether Mercedes will stick to the zero-pod concept.
“I’m not ruling anything out,” said team boss Toto Wolff when asked by this site if the team could perhaps return to the specification presented earlier this year. “But we have to agree with our people, even when in doubt. They have produced beautiful cars in the past and we believe we are on the right track. Barcelona is definitely a moment where we can see if we see what we saw in February where we can gather more data. I find it irritating that we have to talk about collecting data and experimenting, but it’s science. You have to look at the data completely.”
“We have more ground, which increases the risk of instability”
What Mercedes is learning in Barcelona is the answer to the question of whether the theoretical advantages of the zero pod can also be used in practice. By comparing the data from the race weekend with that of the winter test, Mercedes gets a better understanding of the old concept. In principle, it generates less downforce, but can work better. The focus now shifts to the zero pod concept, which puts more pressure on the ground. This made the car vulnerable to porpoises. Wolff: “A tour of the wagons reveals that we have a lot more ground than others. That also gives a lot more possibilities for an unstable car. This is where our concept differs. At the Barcelona launch the car was a lot slower but we need to see how we can make this car predictable for the drivers.”
Although Mercedes don’t have any answers yet, Wolff says a decision will be made on the plan for the future after Barcelona. “We have committed ourselves to the current concept and we have to,” says Wolff. “Anyone who doesn’t believe it and also gives the other concept a 50 percent chance should change immediately. We are convinced of the current concept. […] We have to learn before we decide on another concept, where did we go wrong? What are the strengths of the concept, another important question. You should see this. I think we’ll get an answer after Barcelona, that’s the only correlation we have. Then we look in the mirror and decide if we did something wrong.”