After the interim high in Barcelona, Mercedes again missed pole position by seven tenths in Monaco. The engineers had expected what looks like a throwback to the old days. Monte Carlo was the most thankless place on the way back to the top.
Barcelona was a ray of hope. Mercedes had reduced the gap to the top to three tenths on average for all lap times. Lewis Hamilton was even able to match the pace of the Red Bull in the race, but nobody noticed this because he started the second lap 53 seconds behind. Mercedes would have needed a normal race track to confirm the upward trend. But with Monte Carlo, the most unusual route on the whole calendar followed.
The race in Spain had already shown progress despite all the progress, where the sore spot of the silver arrows lies. George Russell and Lewis Hamilton only lost their time in corners below 120 km/h and with the profile hanging outwards. There are eleven curves of this type in Monte Carlo. And lots of bumps and curbs lurking in the racing line. That's not exactly the best side of the W13. Not yet.
Five races behind
In the fast corners, the Mercedes already drives at the level of Ferrari and Red Bull. But when more ground clearance and more suspension travel are required, the engineers still lack the experience. "Our season started anew in Barcelona. Only now can we start looking for lap times and redefining the set-up window. We're five races down on our competition. At a track like Monte Carlo we had to relearn our car. "
Due to a lack of experience, the Mercedes were set too low and too hard for the bumpy track in Monte Carlo. The cars bounced so hard over the bumps that Lewis Hamilton suspected the bouncing had returned. Which of course had nothing to do with the aerodynamic rocking effect.
"The cars hit the ground because they were too stiff," explained Wolff. The drivers would have had to take too many risks to achieve a significant improvement in time. "Even with a perfect lap, we wouldn't have come closer than six tenths to the cars in front of us," Hamilton regretted.
Stronger in the race than on one lap
Mercedes therefore deliberately radically changed the setup between the first and second practice session on Friday in order to achieve the greatest possible learning effect. "We then pooled the information for Saturday and did some fine tuning," explained chief engineer Andrew Shovlin. It was better but not good enough. In qualifying, George Russell was 0.732 seconds off pole position.
That's about the same distance as in Barcelona on one lap, Shovlin recalled the race before. "We were a lot closer to that in the race.The long runs on Friday already indicated that we will look stronger on Sunday." The question is whether Russell and Hamilton can do it from sixth and eighth on the grid as they did in Barcelona. Overtaking in Monte Carlo is also possible with the new cars
Team boss Toto Wolff stated: "Nothing we learned in Barcelona could help us in Monte Carlo. Therefore, the result was almost expected. We can fight for places five and six again. Today Norris beat us at that." Russell confirmed: "Ground clearance was our biggest limitation today. We can't be satisfied with sixth place on the grid, but that was pretty much the best we could get out of our package."
Hamilton in the wrong engine mode
Russell put the training duel against Hamilton at 4:3. What is a personal affirmation for the newcomer to the team, but not a huge satisfaction."Our drivers are more focused on getting the car up front at the moment. As long as we don't manage that, the internal duel is secondary," said Shovlin.
Hamilton found the fault in himself: "I should have done my first lap better, but I started it with the wrong engine mode. Then the red flags slowed me down because of Perez's accident."
Looking to the future, it will still be a while before the Mercedes can be a winning car again. Internally, you don't expect it before the British GP. Because they too next two circuits will have exotic status." Baku and Montreal aren't going to get much easier. After all, the straights are longer, and that's where we caught up."