Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff has revealed that the team will stick with and continue to develop their current ‘zeropod’ sidepod concept regardless of the car’s performance.
It became clear early-on in the Monaco GP weekend in Friday practice that the Mercedes W13 was not suited to the tight and twisty street circuit, but seemingly not for the reasons which have held the car back in the first few races of the season.
Back at the Spanish GP, Mercedes, along with the majority of the grid, introduced new upgrades to their wings, floor and diffuser in the hope of going a way to curing the chronic porpoising issue which has plagued the car since pre-season testing. The upgrades looked to have worked in Barcelona, as the car exhibited a remarkably small amount of porpoising on the straights, as was before its achilles heel.
However, in Monaco the car again displayed severe bouncing throughout the ‘higher-speed’ corners of the track – compared to other circuits these areas would class as low-speed corners – which led to drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton claiming that their vision was even affected at times and was overall extremely uncomfortable.
Team boss Wolff clarified the confusing return of the much-loathed bouncing to the W13 at the historic track, which was always set to be one of the team’s weaker weekends. “We haven’t got porpoising returning, we’re just bottoming out and hitting the ground in a very different way,” he explained.
“The car was too stiff and too low, and it’s just the same gap like it was in qualifying in Barcelona. So it is probably realistic where we ended up qualifying in fifth and sixth, and Norris beat us to it but we shouldn’t have expected any miracles particularly here in Monaco,” summed up Wolff.
The team would have hoped for the Spain upgrades to have permanently tamed the non-compliant 2022 Mercedes, and got it permanently under the team’s control for what would be the first time this season. However, Monaco following on from Barcelona was always going to be a test for the new parts, and somewhat irrelevant due to its outlier nature on the calendar.
“Pretty much yes,” Wolff replied when asked whether it is the worst circuit possible to have followed Spain. “Because you can say that one of the lessons that we’ve learned in Barcelona and [ask] how do they apply at Monaco and the answer is there is nothing you can apply to Monaco because it’s so different.
“Every lap looks different, the car behaviour changes and we’ve had it last year, we had a car on P2 and a car that went out I think in Q1, I think it was, or Q2. I don’t know whether this is just managing my expectations but I would say that us being here where we are with George is probably a realistic or better than what I would have expected for Monaco, even though of course we can’t be happy with such performance.
“It is where we are. It could have been worse in my opinion,” said Wolff. Prior to the previous event, there were rumours that Mercedes were considering completely abandoning their ‘zeropod’ sidepod design – entailing an extremely narrow and centre-line focused package on either side of the cockpit.
The tall, narrow vertically positioned sidepod inlets juxtapose the Ferrari and Red Bull designs in every aspect, and have reportedly been the main player in the Mercedes’ floor flexing in such a manner as to lead to uncontrollable porpoising.
After stating prior to Barcelona that the team would ‘look themselves in the mirror’, Wolff has revealed that they will continue to “grind away” with this concept, at least for the remainder of the year.
“If you want to change concept you need to understand what is going to make a new concept faster than the current one, and I think if we would have known we would have done it,” Wolff said. “At the moment it’s still very much believing in the structure in our organisation and trying to bring development and understanding in order to increase the pace of the car.
“At a certain stage if we still don’t manage to close that gap I think we need to continue to just grind away, and then if decisions for next year need to be taken that can’t be changed on the current car, whether it’s architecture or aerodynamically, then yeah these decisions need to happen, but we’re not at that point yet… At least we’re going to get some wind tunnel time from the end of June onwards,” summed up Wolff.
Here’s Toto Wolff, Lewis Hamilton, George Russell on Monaco GP