D his Mercedes W10 has two faces. You can't make sense of him. Sebastian Vettel put it this way: “It is difficult to read what exactly is going on. Some runs look good, others not so good. ”The engineers see it that way too:“ There are phases when we are as fast as Red Bull, and then we are slow again. ”
So slow that According to the projections of some teams, Mercedes has even drifted into midfield. In the worst case, the simulations of the opponents speak of more than a second behind Ferrari. In the good phases, however, the Silver Arrow is only one to two tenths missing on a Ferrari.
But when is this Mercedes Dr. Jekyll and when is Mr. Hyde? The engineers themselves cannot really answer that yet. “It depends on the temperatures, the tires and the circumstances.” One thing is certain: the retreaded car is a significant step forward compared to the version of the W10 that was on the road in the first week of testing The base model really only played in the midfield. The biggest problem was initially an instability in the rear, which was probably due to aerodynamics. 'We have the problem clearly better under control,' said the technicians with relief.
Mercedes does not yet understand its car
The big difference between Ferrari and Mercedes is that Ferrari understood its car from day one of the test. Mercedes is still in the middle of the learning process. 'Because our aero package was so extensive and so massively new.'
The biggest puzzle is again the new onesPirelli tires. The graining of the rubber on the Mercedes is pretty severe, even during the daytime when the so-called 'graining' shouldn't actually be a problem. “We also experienced it in the warm afternoon hours.”
Other teams also have problems with the tread peeling off, but mostly limited to the cool morning hours. Graining can also result from too much slipping on the asphalt. But the Mercedes technicians rule that out: “We definitely don't have too little downforce.”
Whenever the Mercedes falls into this “graining” hole, it is slow. This is of course difficult to see for the spies of the competition. The softer the tires, the greater the problem with the grain.
Compared to the competition, the Mercedes looks best on the second hardest C2 compound. The time of day also plays a role, when the Silver Arrow is in shape and when it is not. “10 o'clock is our best time for a fast lap. For long runs from 12 noon to 2 p.m. Unfortunately, one hour of it is lunch break. ”
This year, Pirelli is offering new rubber compounds, also in response to the thinner tread. “The tires behave very differently than last year,” complain many engineers. And that makes it so difficult to read the lap times. Also the long runs.
'There is more leeway in the variables,' complains Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul. “With the larger tank capacity, you can calculate up to 20 kilograms in the analyzes. The DRS effect has gotten much bigger. So are the differences in the engine programs. And then there is the tire factor, which is difficult to read. '
Red Bull with the fastest long run
In the first six days of testing, there were hardly any usable racing simulations. Only these allow a reasonably robust analysis, because you can assume a starting weight of at least 100 kilograms. But even then, the quality of the long runs can fluctuate greatly, experts tell us. The tires are again to blame for this.
'We see extreme fluctuations, even with the same car. It all depends on the first two rounds. There isfour categories: first lap fast and then continue continuously. First lap fast, then a cooling lap. First lap quickly, briefly into the pits, adjust the front wing and continue. Start moderately and improve. ”
The Mercedes analysts draw an interim balance:“ On Wednesday, Red Bull showed the fastest long run to date. ”Max Verstappen, however, broke the racing simulation after 40 laps due to a slip and a transmission problem from. And Mercedes? 'We had good and not so good long runs, depending on the time of day.' According to Mercedes calculations, Renault and Sauber also do well in racing trim.
Generally, the midfield seems to have moved significantly closer to the top. That looked very different in the first week. And that's why the impression can arise that Mercedes is part of the midfield when the car presents itself from its weaker side again. That happened to Lewis Hamilton during his Wednesday long run with the C3 tires. Four to five laps consistently in the 1.20s, then the lap times rose rapidly to a level of 1.23 minutes, where they stabilized again.