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Half-time balance Mercedes: The Silver Arrow is fighting with the tires

Dani Reinhardt
Mercedes mid-term review
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D he announcement was big. This year the car has to be capable of winning. 2012 is the third season for the revived Mercedes racing team. Team boss Ross Brawn had restructured the entire design office and brought masters in their field to Brackley with Bob Bell, Geoff Willis and Aldo Costa. The new Mercedes AMGW03 has been corrected for some weaknesses of its predecessor. The wheelbase has become significantly longer. Unnecessary weight came out to have more ballast than play mass. The center of gravity has been lowered and the chassis revised. The rear end was slimmer than the previous year's model. Role model Red Bull. 'We questioned everything. There was no change just for the sake of change,' said technical director Bob Bell before the season.

And no risky projects either. An exhaust that aimed near the rear wheels was omitted. 'During wind tunnel tests we found that this solution can heat up the rear tires too much', Aldo Costa justified the choice of the conservative exhaust solution, in which the tailpipe is aimed at the lower rear wing element. That doesn't have to be a disadvantage. Lotus and Williams do the same and drive well with it.

Mercedes invents double DRS

Just one exception they ventured into Bob Bell's office. The so-called double DRS. When the driver presses the DRS button and the rear wing flap folds up, two holes are released in the rear wing end plates through which air flows into a duct system that ends at the front wing. There this air is blown off simultaneously through four small slits on the back of the main sheet. This disrupts the flow and reduces air resistance. Because it happens at the front and back at the same time, the transitions from high downforce to less and vice versa are smoother. Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher can therefore activate the DRS earlier. 'Brings a maximum of three tenths,' weakens Ross Brawn. And only in training. In the race, flattening the wing is only allowed in overtaking situations.

The first attack against the F-shaft flashed off. Lotus protested in vain. The FIA ​​denied the allegations. Ross Brawn cleverly calls the F-shaft DDRS for double DRS: 'Because exactly what we mean by DRS happens. The air resistance is reduced.'

There were no more excuses for Mercedes. It went well straight awayCome on. At least one Mercedes was a regular on the first three rows. The car had the speed. The basis was right. 'Last year we cleaned up our first construction site before the Spanish GP,' said race director Norbert Haug. 'This time we were able to fully concentrate on the first facelift of the car.'

Tire problems plague Mercedes

Yes as soon as the race started, the trouble began. It was a déjà vue. Again, the rear tires went to their knees on critical racetracks under constant load. The fear of the rear tires dominated the set-up work from the first lap on Friday morning. This often leads to Mercedes voluntarily sacrificing speed in order to be on the safe side in the race. The cars are then tuned to understeer. The formula of more downforce instead of top speed doesn't work everywhere. 'If only it were that easy,' groans Ross Brawn. 'Much more important is a well-balanced car for all conditions. If only one tire is used excessively, the other three are quickly affected too.' The perfidious thing about it is that the engineers and drivers have to put the puzzle together from scratch every weekend.

There were only two exceptions to the rule. Shanghai and Monte Carlo. That was due to the racetracks and the weather. Mercedes prefer constant conditions over three days. 'As soon as we lose practice time due to changing weather, it gets difficult,' admits Brawn. Then technicians and drivers are running out of time. Like in Silverstone, at the Hockenheimring and Hungaroring. Shanghai was ideal. On the track, the left front tire is more demanding than the rear rollers. There was a constant asphalt temperature of 24 to 25 degrees under a smog bell. Nico Rosberg drove everything to the ground, and if the pit crew hadn't slouched at Michael Schumacher's first tire change, Mercedes would have gone home with a one-two victory. 57 years after Juan-Manuel Fangio's last success for the Silver Arrows in 1955 in Monza.

Monte Carlo also fit into the scheme of the Silver Arrows. The team had found a set-up that was good for the rear tires without having to give up too much lap time. Michael Schumacher set his first training best time since he returned to the circus in 2010. He was only allowed to start the race from sixth on the grid because he had received a penalty in the race before. Nico Rosberg finished second in the race. “I had the fastest car, but I couldn't get past Webber.”

After the Monaco GP, development on the car was scaled back. The tire problem had priority. 'We have to find out why there can be weekends of total superiority like Rosberg in Shanghai or Vettel in Valencia,' demanded Ross Brawn of his technicians. To this day, they haven't really found anything. One knowsbut at least now, which has contributed to the high tire wear to a considerable extent. To put it bluntly: the Mercedes engine has too much power. Especially in the middle speed range. This leads to slip when accelerating and thus to increased tire temperatures.

The works team also has the most powerful engine of the three Mercedes racing teams. This is due to the exhaust diameter. The factory team has designed it to be as large as possible, because the exhaust is blowing into an uncritical point. McLaren and Force India have what is known as a Coanda exhaust, where the jet is aimed at the gap between the rear tire and the underbody. The higher the speed of the exhaust gases and the more focused the jet, the better. The tailpipes with the minimum diameter required by the regulations cost performance. Compared to Mercedes around 20 hp.

The engineers in Brackley are not only working on new aerodynamic solutions during the summer break. The engine department in Brixworth is also tinkering with things. What is required are maps that allow the engine to develop more smoothly. Ross Brawn left no doubt that he is not satisfied with the first half of the season. Fifth place, said the team boss, could not be Mercedes' claim. With Michael Schumacher, the circus no longer asks itself whether it will extend, but when. The record winner offered light and shadow. The best time in Monte Carlo, third place in Valencia and the excellent rain drives at Silverstone and Hockenheim are offset by five technical failures. At least the problem seems to be under control now.


World Championship place: 5 (Rosberg P6, Schumacher P12)
World Championship points : 106
victories: 1
pole positions: 1
fastest race lap: 2
podium places: 3
points: 13
race kilometers: 5695.6 km (P10)
lead kilometers : 261.6 km (P4)
Arrivals /cancellations: 16/6


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