Anyone who thought that the Formula 1 teams would solve the bouncing problem on the straights straight away was wrong. Not only Mercedes is concerned about the unrest of the car on the straights. But it is particularly strong on the Silver Arrow. Ferrari responded with a new underbody on the second day of testing in Bahrain.
The completely renewed Mercedes W13 stole the show on the morning of the first day of testing. Visually, the silver arrow is a real eye-catcher. You can see the innovative spirit of the engineers at a glance. The new Mercedes driver George Russell is just as enthusiastic about the look as the fan community, but the 24-year-old Englishman warns: "It's not about how the car looks. It's more important that it's fast."
And that's exactly what the Mercedes W13 still had big problems with after the facelift. Lewis Hamilton complained about unsteadiness under braking and stubborn understeer. In terms of lap times, the seven-time champion lagged 1.8 seconds behind Charles Leclerc's Ferrari best time in the morning.
"That was a representative difference that day," revealed one of the engineers. But that's not to say that this Mercedes is a flop. He was only suffering from the plague that had afflicted almost every team in Barcelona. And he suffered more than anyone else. That falsified the lap times.
FIA allows support struts
The disease is called bouncing. So the rocking of the car on the straights. In a lightning move, the FIA even allowed the teams to use a strut to stabilize the ground in front of the rear wheels. Mercedes, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari took up the offer directly.
But in order to get rid of the suction and suction in the long term, either constructive interventions have to be made or a magical adjustment has to be found. On the underbody of the Mercedes you could not see any cutouts that other teams are trying to help themselves with. "With holes in the ground, we slow down."
This is how the Mercedes should drive high and hard at the back. But that's not how the aerodynamics of the W13 work. If the car is lowered at the rear axle, the bouncing problem catches up with the drivers again. A vicious circle that only Ferrari has broken so far. According to observations, the rear of the red cars is higher than the assembled competition. "And they still leave nothing in the fast corners," wonder the Mercedes experts.
Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto admits: "We also have a problem with rocking on the straights. That's why we had to make some changes to the vehicle." On the second day of testing, new slots reminiscent of the McLaren could be seen on the underbody of the F1-75.
According to Mercedes, Ferrari was less affected than the rest of the field from the start. The analysis at midday on the first day of testing said: "If we are an 8 out of 10 on the scale of bouncing, it's 3 out of 10 for Red Bull and 1 out of 10 for Ferrari."In the evening, the faces in the Mercedes camp relaxed a bit. "We now have better control of the bouncing," revealed team boss Toto Wolff.
Solution with mass inertia dampers
Alpine sees itself at 3 in terms of pumping on the straights 10. The Sauber C42 also looks stable on the straights. Team boss Frédéric Vasseur believes: "Because I don't take as many risks with the ground clearance as others."
McLaren is more on Ferrari level. Whether it's really the elongated slot at the edges of the underbody, the scholars are still arguing about that.Team boss Andreas Seidl admits: "That was a stroke of luck with the underbody. Nobody could test the bouncing in the wind tunnel. We were all surprised."
A Mercedes engineer also believes: "The problem is complex and cannot be solved by simply cutting a slot in the ground. The air balance makes you slower first of all. There are a few other things that go with it."
For example the chassis. Ferrari somehow managed to go high and soft in the slow corners and low and hard on the straights. Only conventional dampers are allowed this year. That reduces the possibilities of countersteering.
And according to Mercedes, this plays a major role in solving the problem: "If everyone still had the mass inertia dampers, the bouncing would quickly be over. Now we drive with dampers and springs like 30 years ago. It's not that easy with the vote anymore."