Azerbaijan GP 2022
Mercedes continues to lead the chase field, but the gap up front has increased. Was Barcelona just a flash in the pan? Can past serial winners stick to their bold concept? There must be answers before the Hungarian doctor.
Mercedes remains the third power in the field, even if it sometimes looks as if McLaren, Alpine or Alpha Tauri could be a threat to the Silver Arrow in Baku. In the end, the quality of the drivers also saved Mercedes from slipping into the depths of the chase group. With modes 5 and 7 on the grid, the world champion constructors have been well served for the past eight years. Because old weaknesses reappear.
George Russell and Lewis Hamilton sat in real swinging horses again. Especially on the 2.2 kilometer stretch of the house. It was a combination of aerodynamic bounce and high-frequency vibration over the bumpy road. “Sometimes it was so bad that I couldn’t see the braking points,” Russell said. The heavy landing, along with the aft wing that was too large, caused the air to be excessively resistant and he lost a lot of time on the strait.
At 334.0 and 333.7 km/h, Hamilton and Russell took 17th and 18th places in the top speed rankings, and in the last sector, consisting mainly of full throttle, Russell lost four tenths to the fastest cars. Team Principal Toto Wolff reveals that “our second weak point is curves 15 and 16.” Engineers attribute this to the fact that the vibration of the cars forces them to use settings that also retaliate from certain angles. However, Russell insisted: “The car feels comfortable in the turns. The lap was good. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the distance ahead.”
Hamilton plays guinea pigs
Under the circumstances, the team wonders if Barcelona is a flash. Hamilton was able to keep up with the speed of Red Bull and Ferrari in the race. “Barcelona is a classic racetrack with soft asphalt and a little bit of bumps and bumps. So a little bit of bounce. Our car is good at this type of racetrack. Monte Carlo and Paco offer exactly what is still toxic to our car at the moment, and Montreal will probably be our hardest test during week in this regard,” Wolff admits.
Engineers confirm: “The car we have in Baku is identical to Barcelona. In one of the tracks we are three-tenths behind the lead, and here in Baku 1.3 seconds. This raises the question whether we are flattered by Barcelona or not. The problems there that still hold us back are elsewhere. , mainly due to the path. Or whether we don’t understand something.”
To find out, Mercedes is currently driving in test mode. This also explains Hamilton’s fifth qualifying defeat to Russell. Wolff defends his star player, who is clearly struggling with being just an extra player this season: “Lewis tried a different contour of the lower body. It didn’t work.” On the other hand, Hamilton is ready to play the role of the engineers’ test pilot at every race. Hoping to turn the season around after all.
The fastest car in a wind tunnel
Mercedes is heading towards the moment when a decision must be made for 2023. For Toto Wolff the issue is clear. “There are four sources of us being too slow. We can’t operate the aerodynamics in the window as they deliver the downforce that the wind tunnel promises us. We don’t have the suspension comfort and suspension travel past. And we have jumping on certain tracks, which hides everything else. I mean the three Together we don’t use tires properly either.” And then a second or more is quickly lost.
According to Wolff, the engineers also understood the main problem: “We know how the rebound happens. But we still don’t have a clear answer on how to turn it off. That’s why the experiments are done. This is more important now than the car for a particular car in the short term to improve the track.”
Especially against the background that a decision on the 2023 concept will have to be taken soon. This is very difficult because the Mercedes W13 outperforms all other cars in the wind tunnel. He just can’t reproduce his qualities on the track.
Hamilton fulfills his contract
Wolff believes that after the Fearless track in Montreal, it will be clear to see what the answers will be for the next round of promotions at Silverstone and whether, after the Hungarian Grand Prix, he will be able to answer the question of the concept. The biggest uncertainty factor is the Silverstone and Paul Ricard circuits. There Mercedes will be at least as good as Barcelona or even able to win. “That might raise new question marks again,” Wolff looks forward.
A clear line is important. Also for Lewis Hamilton. The seven-time world champion would like to feel he can fight for his eighth world title again next year. Rumors that Hamilton might throw in the towel prematurely are dismissed by the team boss. “Lewis is totally excited. Like all of us, he is looking for a way out of this situation. That is why we have no doubts that Lewis will lead us until the end of 2023. There is no open door for us next year.”