Monza was not a Mercedes track. Red Bull and Ferrari were out of reach. But even if the resources are already pooled for the coming season, there should be at least one more win in 2022. Is Singapore a Mercedes-style track?
16 races are over. Red Bull dominates the season with 12 wins. Ferrari was able to look forward to a big trophy four times. And Mercedes? The constructors world champion of the last eight years has a podium guarantee. George Russell (7) and Lewis Hamilton (6) have already secured 13 podium places. But with two exceptions, the Silver Arrows were not candidates for victories. It was only in Silverstone and Zandvoort that one could begin to dream.
Critical phase for 2023 Mercedes
In Monza we took a step backwards. Not as bad as in Belgium, but not as good as in Zandvoort either. And a little worse than we had previously imagined. Mercedes knew the high-speed track in Royal Park wasn't to the W13's liking. That was confirmed in the training sessions, even if you were still listening to the music at first. The engineers relativize. "Verstappen had traffic on his fastest lap and Leclerc had a bad first sector."
The big picture was correct, what the computer had spit out in advance. "That's a positive aspect," says team boss Toto Wolff. "What our simulations predicted has happened." That wasn't always the case this year, when Mercedes' own programs often fooled them. In the wind tunnel, the W13 was a world champion car. None on the route.
"It's not like we've found the Holy Grail. But to a certain extent we understand what we have to do differently with next year's car. The next month or two will be a critical phase in this respect," estimates Wolff a. Mercedes engineers need to work out the flaws that make the W13 a critical car that only allows aerodynamics and tires to work within a tiny gap. This is not one component, but various pieces of the puzzle that interact with each other.
Mercedes only top in one discipline
In Monza, the old problem fell on the feet of the silver medalists. Bouncing, i.e. the aerodynamically generated swinging on the straights, has now been practically trained out of the car. The engineers know how to stop it. But against bumps, the only solution is to increase the ground clearance. This throws the W13 out of balance. Downforce is lost, drag increases. Twice as bitter on a racetrack like Monza. Grip was particularly lacking at the corner entry. Without a stable rear, the drivers took too little momentum into the curves.
Mercedes had to go higher to protect the underbody. In the first chicane and the Roggia chicane, in Lesmo 2 on the curbs and the fast Ascari passage.The car naturally leans outwards, which puts the edges of the underbody at risk. Despite the small rear wing, the Mercedes were among the slowest cars on the straights in qualifying. A lot of lap time was lost in each sector. Three tenths of a second in the first, six in the second and half a second in the third.
The Mercedes is the best car in the field in only one discipline. No other car treats its tires with such care. But in Monza wear and tear was generally not a big issue. Russell finished third with a clean drive. The gap was also large in the race. By lap 46, i.e. until the safety car, the Brit lost 31.246 seconds to Max Verstappen, who had started behind him. And almost 15 seconds to Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari. Mercedes misjudged the hard tires this time. They slowed Russell's pace in the middle stint.
Good Singapore layout, bad bumps
Overall, positions three and five were damage limitation again. In the World Cup, Ferrari remains in sight. Despite slower cars, Mercedes is only 35 points behind. But second places are less interesting for the team, which has been spoiled by success. The aim is to return to winning ways. Best of all this season. "That must remain our aim for this year, although the sails are set for 2023," says team boss Wolff. "After Spa, victory seemed impossible, but in Zandvoort it was within reach." In Monza he was further away again, in Singapore he could get closer.
At least that's the hope at Mercedes. "The track layout should fit our car," Wolff believes. Because Singapore is a circuit where you drive with maximum downforce. And because there is almost only one curve type. Namely 90 degree corners. That helps cars like the Mercedes, which only have a tiny working window. Because you don't have to make as many compromises when setting up the car as when there's a big difference between the slowest and fastest corners, like in Spa, for example. There the variance is between 70 and 300 km/h.
One element of uncertainty remains for Singapore. The W13 wasn't particularly fast on street circuits this season. "The bumps speak against us," says the team boss. "We still believe that Singapore will be one of our better routes, but at the same time we want to be careful with forecasts."
Construction sites for Mercedes
Mercedes will continue to equip the Silver Arrow with new parts for the last races of the season. Albeit on a small scale. "The greater progress comes from understanding," the team continues. In the remainder of the program there doesn't seem to be a track that should throw the Mercedes completely out of step. "Maybe Austin is still quite good for us," Russell looks ahead.
Every race counts to learn for 2023. Then Mercedes wants to drive regularly for the top positions again. They want to catch up with Red Bull and Ferrari.You have to be aerodynamic for that. Efficiency, i.e. generating as much downforce as possible with little air resistance, remains a work in progress. But there are also deficits to be fixed on the mechanical side. Mercedes, long the benchmark for chassis, threw back the ban on hydraulic suspension more than the competition. Conventional systems were better suited to the philosophy of Red Bull and Ferrari.