There were no Mercedes on the track for the third quarter of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix on Friday, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton failing in the previous session. This double elimination may seem trivial given the difficulties the German team has faced since the start of the season, but it is actually a historic event.
Indeed, we should go back to the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix almost a decade ago, observing the last Q3 without Mercedes before Imola. So get the shock at the brand’s star booth this Friday. This is explained by the difficulty the team had at raising the temperature of their tires on a cold, wet afternoon interrupted by several red flags.
“To be honest, we had a hard time warming up this car”Andrew Shovlin, head of road engineering, explained. “We couldn’t find a solution to this and [vendredi] It was a pretty painful instance when we couldn’t do it long enough to get the temperature up and put the tires in the right window.”
“We’ve seen that in all races. It didn’t cost us anything in Bahrain. In other circuits it was a bit more difficult in qualifying. The race pace is generally good, I think we’ve proven to be the third team.” The problem is, we’re in the middle of the grid in one lap. This is something we’re working on but don’t really understand at the moment. ‘moment’.
Are Mercedes problems due to an aerodynamic or mechanical limitation? According to Shovlin, there is no one-size-fits-all answer: “I don’t think it’s aerodynamic in a simple sense because our races are pretty good, we’re running well above the intermediate level.. In one round, many midfielders are better than us. We cannot say that this is because they have more downforce than us in one lap. And likewise, I don’t think it’s a mechanical thing.”
“There are things you can do with the car’s tuning to warm up the brakes a little bit more. But that’s relatively subtle. As I said, we don’t know if there is anything else in the way we tuned it.” Our approach to warming up the car or the tires is an area we need to master because it’s holding us back. [en qualifications]”
Mercedes W13 front brakes
With the introduction of new 18-inch wheels this season, teams have had to find new ways to warm the tyres. To achieve this, it is more difficult to use the brakes in particular.
“Previously, the hot air from the brakes was reaching the rim directly and the heat transferring through the rubber was very fast”Added Shovlin. ” [nouvelles] Rules were written to make it harder and it worked. Like I said, we still need to understand why we can’t equal some midfield teams. We know that Red Bull and Ferrari now have more downforce. But we should be in the same position [en qualifications] more realistically than the third-placed race.”
Although the teams had little data on Pirelli’s medium and rain tyres, it was not a problem for Mercedes at Imola this Friday, as their behavior is quite similar to the Italian tire manufacturer’s old 13-inch tires.
“The most important thing about rain tires is, [de savoir] how they behave in different conditions, how is the transition to drying”said the Mercedes engineer. “We’re not going to take good care of this [à Imola]. But in the interim conditions of the day, the only problem for us was the heating. We were struggling in this area. In terms of balance, there were no problems. [les pneus]they look a lot like these [d’avant]. George said he wouldn’t be surprised if he goes higher on the grid, the car is good. We didn’t have the grip we needed to be fast.”
Hamilton, who was under the threat of elimination in Q1 after validating his ticket for Q2 in four-thousandths of a second, gave a difficult assessment of Mercedes’ situation and further stated that his team had not made the right decisions. When asked about the significance of this statement, Shovlin said that the seven-time world champion was probably talking about the management of the session, with Hamilton wanting to complete more laps.
“Lewis would have loved to have stayed on the track in the early stages”explained. “He felt that [les pneus] The temperature was rising when we decided to take a new train. Looking at the end of the session, we couldn’t do a longer mission due to a red flag. Two things, then: First, could we have handled the first part of the session better? Maybe yes. Then we just can’t seem to sign [un premier tour référence] while others do it quite easily. And on a day like this, it’s always a big deal.”
In addition to the overheating of the tires, Mercedes has to deal with another problem that affects its performance. Porpoising poses more of a challenge for the star brand than most of its competitors, which means it is currently impossible to use optimal settings in his car.
“Honestly, these are two annoying problems right now”Shovlin agreed. “But realistically, what’s costing us the most [en qualifications] is the temperature setting. I think we will be more successful if we can solve this. The jump limits the car’s potential, but it’s not unlike what we’ve seen in recent races.”
When introducing changes to the Imola, Mercedes did not particularly want to control pitching, the updates were only aimed at improving the performance of the W13.
“Normal aero development”Shovlin approved. “To be honest, we are working on our rebound issues separately. We were aware of the changes we made. [à Imola] it wouldn’t affect it. That’s why we focused on these sections. But we continue to work hard to understand, master and try to figure it out. [le marsouinage]. So, again, we know this car is another weak spot that we need to fix before we get competitive, just like the warm-up.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13
If the problems with the W13 chassis weren’t enough, Mercedes has to deal with a lack of power too. The first three Grands Prix of the season made it clear that other engines on the grid (Ferrari, Honda and Renault) are better than the German bloc that dominated the hybrid era from 2014 to 2021. And like most powertrain items, it’s been frozen by now. 2025, it’s hard to stop the bleeding.
“We are constantly analyzing this”Shovlin admitted. “There are areas where we believe we can improve in terms of distribution management. [de la puissance]. However, it is now a homologated unit, so something can be done just for reliability. That doesn’t stop us from looking at what we can do with mods, how we can use them better.”
“But we are not fast enough and when we are not fast enough we look everywhere to improve. So that is the duty of the members. [du département moteur], focus on that and look at all the tweaks we can make to find the gains. On the chassis side, we have a lot of different projects to try to move forward with right now.”
Will Mercedes be able to raise its head above the water and find solutions to its problems? The Grands Prix is one after another, and the chances of a ninth consecutive title for the star brand continue to dwindle.