Formula 1 | Dark omen: Elliott talks first Mercedes F1 driver
As we know, the start of the season, if not the entire season of Mercedes F1, seemed to be poisoned by sewage… The German team was able to detect this problem early, but under potentially misleading conditions.
Indeed, during Mercedes’ tuning (promotional drive) at Silverstone from February 18th, the silver car was disturbingly back…
However, this was possible at the time “The windiest day of my entire career” (says George Russell, who drove the car), to think that the Mercedes bounced not because of a major aerodynamic flaw, but simply because of the English weather.
Coach Mike Elliott remembers that first bad impression… and the hesitation.
“After a very wet day at Silverstone, we found that the car had a bit of bounce, but not enough to get a really clear picture. »
“It was pretty awful today with strong winds and torrential rain to say the least. And then, after the first winter tests in Barcelona, and we were able to prove that the rebound was there. We knew there were issues we needed to address, but we also knew there was a fairly large upgrade coming, and it’s hard to know what to bring in the first upgrade set and what to do in the second set and so on. So that was part of the problem. »
Mercedes has certainly received some upgrades since then, most notably with the appearance of a zero pontoon F1 car during winter testing in Bahrain.
Could this radical choice, widely commented on for its spectacular visuals, really make Mercedes’ problems worse? Anyway, Mike Elliott decorates this pontoon selection with porpoising.
“This zero pontoon concept did not create anything unexpected. Unfortunately, this did not solve our problems, it was never intended to. When people look at a car, there’s a tendency to talk about concept cars that you have a concept, you put it on the track, and it either works or it doesn’t. »
“I think the reality of what we do is always evolving, it’s about taking what you have and saying, ‘How can we improve this?’ “What’s the next step?” you think.”
“And while pontoons are visually very different from other cars, when you look at what they do aerodynamically, they’re not that different from other cars. It’s just a different geometry. The reality is if you changed the concept of side pods between cars… I don’t think it would make a huge difference to us. »
The technical director explains the rest of Mercedes’ fight with swine; Barcelona’s improved package raised high hopes, and those hopes were quickly dashed.
“I don’t think any of the teams actually predicted porpoising. We were all aware of what had happened in the past with ground effect cars and we all went into the season thinking there was potential for that. When you look at the limitations of what you can do in a CFD and wind tunnel due to the limitations of aerodynamic testing, it’s quite difficult to get an idea of what you can or can’t see. »
“So when you start winter testing and you see the feedback, especially for us, it was about how quickly you develop the tools to understand exactly what’s going on. You can make different corrections and experiments on the track … we’ve seen a lot of that on the grid. But really it’s , it was a question of how quickly to understand the underlying human phenomenon and how quickly to correct it.
“In Barcelona, we already understood the situation well. However, this did put some limitations on how we could drive the car, which meant we couldn’t get the most out of it. »
A Mercedes that is very tough… and very mean
The Mercedes also suffered from another flaw that could prove fatal in Monaco: it ran with a low body height, so there was little margin in the rear suspension to ride higher – and thus reduce emissions.
The car also had to roll with some stiffness, which caused a mechanical bounce (as opposed to porpoising); therefore, Mercedes had to take to the track with fairly wide wings, which was Mercedes’ other big weakness this year… which gave Mike Elliott new headaches.
The new aerodynamic regulations for 2022 impose general cascade restrictions, which the technical director has detailed.
“It was about choosing how far off the ground to get rid of our problems. So there are two problems. »
“The aerodynamic problem is that there is an effective phasing, a small delay, between the aerodynamic force in the air and the actual motion of the car. And the small space between these two means your energy is increasing. So when you hit the ball and start the swing, the aerodynamics are such that it adds energy to the swing instead of taking it out. »
“It’s interesting to note that if you look at the previous generation of cars, aerodynamics helped to reduce the vibration of the car, to weaken it. So the aerodynamics helped dampen the cars, which the 2022 cars didn’t. So even if you fix the aerodynamics, the fact that you have less damping with the new rules means you have a hard time airing the cars. Roll as hard as you want – you struggle when you get them close to the ground. »