The Mercedes F1 team has found itself facing an unexpected challenge during the 2022 season – bouncing issues with their cars. This problem, which plagued the team in the previous year, seemed to have disappeared with the new W14 car and regulation tweaks. However, both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell encountered the issue at the Spa race, with Russell even describing the bouncing as a “huge amount”. As the team delves into investigating the cause, they must determine whether it is track-specific or related to the car’s setup.
One of the factors the Mercedes team is considering is whether the bouncing issue is specific to the Spa track or if it is caused by the car’s setup. With the sprint event rules allowing limited practice sessions, the teams, including Mercedes and their rivals, had little time to fine-tune their cars. Furthermore, once the wet FP1 session was over, no changes could be made. While recent car updates are a potential source of the problem, Mercedes’ technical director, Mike Elliott, believes it is less likely. Regardless, the team acknowledges that the bouncing affects performance as it hampers the drivers’ ability to extract maximum grip, disrupts the car’s balance, and undermines precise braking.
Findings and Reflections
Elliott, discussing the issue, stated that bouncing was noticeable throughout the weekend, not only on the Mercedes cars but also on other teams’ vehicles. He suggested that the nature of the Spa circuit could contribute to the problem. In fact, many teams experienced significant bouncing at Spa in the previous year as well. To better understand the situation, Mercedes plans to conduct further investigation and analysis. They aim to determine the extent to which the track conditions at Spa contributed to the bouncing issue and how much can be attributed to the car’s setup. Additionally, the team will thoroughly examine the recent upgrade kit to ensure it has not inadvertently introduced the bouncing issue. For now, Mercedes’ initial belief is that the problem is likely a result of the car’s setup or the circuit itself.
One consequence of the lack of practice time at Spa was that Lewis Hamilton and George Russell opted for different aero packages. Typically, the drivers come together during the race weekend to finalize their preferences. However, due to the wet conditions and the absence of dry running, both drivers were content with their respective setups. Russell, in particular, chose a higher downforce level with a larger rear wing, which offered him additional options and a preferable balance. This divergence in aero packages further complicated the team’s assessment of the bouncing issue.
The Mercedes F1 team acknowledges the need for further investigation and resolution of the bouncing problem. They recognize the impact it has on performance and driver capabilities. Determining the extent of the track-specific influence and the role played by car setup will be crucial for addressing the issue effectively. As the team continues to refine its cars and prepare for future races, they will use their simulator and conduct meticulous analysis to find the optimum balance and downforce level. Learning from the challenges faced in Spa, Mercedes aims to mitigate bouncing issues and maximize the potential of their F1 cars in upcoming events.