Mercedes head into the Azerbaijan GP full of anticipation and expectation as the long Baku straights, medium and low speed corners beckon for their Barcelona-spec W13.
It looked as if the Mercedes’ debilitating porpoising issue had been rectified at the Spanish GP with a major upgrade package to the front and rear wings, floor and diffuser seemingly eliminating the phenomenon. Although it was reappearing at certain speeds, the range in which it occurred was a lot smaller and more manageable.
The performance improved no-end for both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton too, with the former battling the title contending Red Bull pairing throughout the race before eventually finishing a remarkable P3. Lewis Hamilton meanwhile fought back from first lap contact with Kevin Magnussen and a subsequent puncture to be fifth, as the fastest car on track at times.
The team struggled enormously at the enigma that is the Monaco GP on setup and car performance, with the car bouncing horrifically as a result of the stiffly sprung suspension. Russell was fifth, somehow continuing his consecutive top five finishing streak, with Hamilton eighth after getting stuck behind Fernando Alonso.
Porpoising hadn’t returned, but the car was “the worst it’d been so far” for bouncing according to the drivers. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff insisted that “nothing” known about the car from other circuits can be translated to Monaco, essentially writing off the weekend, and that it was always going to be damage limitation weekend from the moment the car’s inherent issues were realised earlier in the year.
“I think we are learning at the moment on every track,” Wolff stated when asked to what extent lessons can be learned and utilised coming away from Monaco and into Baku. “Every kilometre we are doing is an important lesson on how we can improve the car to be honest but we just need to get out of this no-man’s land in which we are in at the moment.
“I think we are the third team, we are not second and we are not fourth, we have two extremely strong drivers but is a huge annoyance for all of us that the gap is about the same [at every track], if you’re looking at it optimistically it’s five tenths, if you’re looking at it pessimistically it’s more eight tenths, and that is clearly for all of us at Mercedes not acceptable,” summed up Wolff.
Seven-time champion Hamilton is “praying” the car is improved in Baku and reacts distinctly differently to the bumps of Monaco. Whether this will be the case remains to be seen owing to the fact that the track is a street circuit in a populated city – notorious factors in creating bumps and nuances in the tarmac.
“I’m praying the car doesn’t feel like it did [in Monaco] because it was the worst that it’s felt so far with the bumps… I’m looking forward to it going away – my teeth and my jaw moving all the time,” reveals Hamilton. “I’m done with the shaking. Ours is so stiff the suspension is driving it back into the ground.
“I’m looking forward to a more open track, hopefully the next race I’m just praying it’s not as bumpy. I don’t know if it’s the porpoising because that’s not what we had [in Barcelona or Monaco], so I’m hoping porpoising isn’t an issue but it’s just if it’s bumpy then through the corners we might struggle but we’ll see,” summed up Hamilton.
Teammate Russell is more upbeat on their chances in Azerbaijan than Hamilton, but admits the circuit won’t “transform our finishing position.” Instead he is hoping for a best case scenario of being within touching distance of the frontrunners, ruling out the chance of Mercedes rejoining that category.
“It definitely will be more suited, but I don’t think it’s going to transform our finishing position,” he states. “At the moment, around Monaco we were six tenths behind, and into Baku we will probably be three tenths behind the front runners we hope, for the best case.”
Mercedes will also run both Hamilton and Russell’s cars with an updated rainbow-coloured logo design on the W13’s nose, in order to raise awareness for Pride Month. The design will stay on the cars for the Azerbaijan GP, Canadian GP and British GP.
The team also says it will host a “networking BBQ”, alongside other networking events, for its team members to attend, in order to highlight the importance of supporting LGBTQ+ colleagues. They will also share stories from members of the team on social media, which already had its profile pictures overhauled in the same way, throughout Pride Month.
Happy #PrideMonth ❤️🌈
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) June 8, 2022
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