Former Formula 1 driver Paul di Resta reckons that Mercedes might be able to close the gap to Red Bull and Ferrari in Azerbaijan this weekend, but warns that this hinges on whether they have eradicated their “porpoising” issues.
For what will realistically be the first time since Miami, the teams will be running around a power track in Baku this weekend – an unusual characteristic of a street circuit.
It is on tracks that require less downforce that Mercedes’ “porpoising” this year has been at its worst due to the reintroduction of ground effect aerodynamics, so there will be intrigue as to whether this issue will reignite when they remove the extra downforce they ran in Spain and Monaco.
There was slightly aggravated bouncing on the straights in Monaco due to the bumps on the track, as well as the low ride height of the new cars that require stiffer suspension, and trackside engineer Andrew Shovlin predicted that the team would be suffering similar issues this weekend too.
“Baku might present some similar challenges,” he explained.
“We are working on areas though to try and improve the ride, try and be able to run the car a bit closer to its optimum window.
“But we are well aware that in addition to adding base performance to the car, we’ve got to make it work over a wider range of circuits.
“So, these are all things that we are busy with in preparation for Baku but also longer-term because there are other challenging tracks that will come up.
“But all of those projects are being worked on really hard because the team and the drivers are desperate to get back to the front.”
Di Resta believes that, if the bouncing stays clear of the German side’s cars in Baku when they change the setup, they can compete with Red Bull and Ferrari as they did in Spain.
“Baku has some corners the same speed as Monaco, where the Mercedes car wasn’t at its strongest,” he told Sky Sports F1.
“Coming here [in Azerbaijan], you need a very different car and the key question at Mercedes is the low downforce set-up going to bring the bouncing back?
“If they can control the ‘porpoising’ and firmly believe that it is fixed, they could be a contender based on the speed they had in Barcelona – just because of the nature of this Baku circuit.”
Baku is a tremendous mix of low, medium and high-speed corners, as well as a two-kilometre home straight, so there are multiple facets in which the car and driver need to be proficient in order to perform well there.
With that said, if the eight-time champions can perform well there, it could bring them back into the title hunt with Red Bull and Ferrari as they continue to gain a better comprehension of the W13.
“This race will really set the rest of the season up, if you perform here then it will dictate the development philosophy for this year or turn attentions to next year,” added di Resta.
“I hope for the sake of the sport that Mercedes are in contention because that means we’ll be back in business with a three-way fight all the way to the end.”
Mercedes have put three podium finishes on the board this season, with Sir Lewis Hamilton finishing third in Bahrain, before George Russell achieved the same result in Australia and Spain.