Mercedes duo of Andrew Shovlin and James Vowles discuss the Bahrain pre-season test as the former hopes that the team can help drivers with more stable rear by 2021 start.
The wind in Bahrain may have played a role in instability for Mercedes, but even discounting that, the team did have some issues with the W12, as seen from the spins. It doesn’t seem to be a huge head scratching moment, but they still have to solve it.
Mercedes did have a filming run, which may have helped a bit, but in the debrief likely recorded before that, did not have any answers from both Shovlin and Vowles. While the latter raised his hands up, the former still had an optimistic view on the matter.
“First of all, good observation, we are fortunate enough to have a lot of footage available to us, as you are at home as well, and it was pretty evident from that, that the car was handling poorly and conversely the Red Bull in fact looked what we would call planted, but it was a very stable car especially through the last sector of the lap,” said Vowles in a new video from Mercedes.
“And I think that’s a fair observation, it was visible to the outside and I would say the lap times mirrored that as well. But it’s also fair to say that we don’t have answers as we are sat here now, it is just 24 hours after the end of the test. Huge amounts of data available to us and now a long journey ahead to try and understand what was causing that.”
At the same time, Shovlin added: “The wind made it tricky, when the wind is behind the car you lose a lot of downforce because effectively the air speed is reduced so some corners where the wind was behind, it was prone to doing that, and then also the tyres are quite easy to overheat on that circuit and if you start sliding, you tend to lose grip and it gets worse. So, there are a few problems.
“Now, importantly we could see that some of our competitors weren’t struggling in the same way as us, so we need to put quite a focus on understanding why the rear end was a bit weak, how we can get it more stable and predictable and that work is going on now, hopefully when we get to the race weekend it won’t be so difficult for the drivers because they were having to work pretty hard to do the lap times that they were doing.”
Both the Mercedes duo were surprised by how much the wind played a role in the Bahrain F1 test, which also gave them interesting set of data to look into. Considering how much the wind has been talked about in testing, the weather conditions is likely to play a bigger role in 2021.
Moving on, they played down the gearbox and other issues, though, which hampered both Mercedes and Aston Martin, but didn’t hurt McLaren and Williams. With Red Bull having a positive running, a fan asked if the F1 season will be close like 2017 and or 2018.
In an usual Mercedes-like response, Vowles noted that they never take their rivals lowly, especially the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari. “I’d start with, for what it’s worth, every season feels close to us, none of them feel particularly easy and straight forward, but where we finished that test, there are a lot of unknowns,” he said.
“No one up and down the paddock will be able to pinpoint exactly where they are, but there is a few trends that have come out. I would say Red Bull are ahead on performance, they are the class act from the test, but it is a test, it is not a race and it is one event out of 23. Are we going to have a close season? I would say so. Red Bull are a fierce adversary, they’ve got a strong package and clearly came out of the box very, very quick.
“The result of that is across the season and across different types of track layouts, I am sure you will see us move forwards and backwards relative to them but I don’t believe we are going into this particularly finding all the performance that is missing or being ahead of them. So, in short: yeah, I think we are going to have a close championship this year,” summed up Vowles.
Here’s Red Bull not wanting a favourites tag
Here’s filming run details from Mercedes
Here’s James Allison crediting Mercedes HPP and addressing the ‘bulge’
Here’s Andrew Shovlin on test shortages for Mercedes
Here’s lap count from Bahrain F1 Test