‘It’s physics, not mystics’: Wolff suggests Barcelona could be turning point for Hamilton and Mercedes

George Russell and Sir Lewis Hamilton ended the Miami Grand Prix fifth and sixth respectively as Mercedes seemed to take a step forward last weekend.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has not ruled out the possibility that the team may decide to run wider sidepods in a bid to try and improve their fortunes, but he would like to make the “zeropods” work.

The new technical regulations have cultivated lots of different concepts from the teams, and one of the most surprising was that pf Mercedes when they showed up to the second pre-season test in Bahrain which virtually no sidepods on the car.

It necessitated a different cooling philosophy and left the floor of the car mostly exposed, leaving it vulnerable to extrusion of airflow, which does not help the “porpoising” phenomenon.

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Indeed, the Silver Arrows have found themselves in a midfield battle more often than they have been fighting Ferrari and Red Bull for podiums, but it seemed as though they had a better comprehension of how to make their car work at last weekend’s Miami Grand Prix.

George Russell led home Sir Lewis Hamilton as they finished fifth and sixth respectively, although they are patently still a long way behind Ferrari and Red Bull, who dominated the top four positions in Florida.

Alterations will therefore undoubtedly be considered by the Brackley-based side, but the Austrian recognises the many hours of work that went into designing and making their current iteration of the W13, so would like to stick it out and make their unique idea work.

“Well, I wouldn’t discount anything but we need to give all of our people who have produced great race cars in the past the benefit of the doubt, and we believe this is the route to go down,” he told the Race.

“Barcelona is definitely going to be a point in time when we are able to correlate with what we’ve seen in February [in the first test there with the old concept] and gather more data.

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“I’m also annoyed by always saying the same thing a lot: gathering data and making experiments but it’s physics and not mystics.”

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner revealed previously that his team had trialled a near absence of sidepods last year while they were preparing for the new regulations, but concluded that orthodox ones were the way to go.

Wolff places more emphasis on discerning why Mercedes’ current design is not working rather than switching to something entirely new, a pragmatic approach that might be wise given the reduced budget this season.

“We’re not looking at the lady next door and if we like it more or not, because it’s still good,” he explained.

“As a matter of fact, we need to understand – before you make a decision to switch to another concept – where did this one go wrong?

“What is the goodness of the concept and what is the badness of the concept?

“And that is a question you can only respond to yourself, but I would be asking ourselves to get an answer after Barcelona, because that’s the real correlation we have.

“And by then, we’ve got to look at ourselves in the mirror and say: ‘did we get it wrong or not?’”

Mercedes looked quicker and more consistent during the weekend in Miami, but they were left “confused” as to Russell’s Q2 exit having looked so competitive on Friday.

The performance fluctuation is a frustrating one for the team, but the Wolff takes heart in the fact that at least they know the performance is there, they just need to find it more often.

“It’s clear that there is potential in the car, which is fast but we just don’t understand how to unlock the potential,” added the 50-year-old.

“It’s a car that is super-difficult to drive and on the edge, dipping in and out of the performance window – more out than in.

“And dissecting the data with a scalpel is just a painful process because it takes a very long time and as a matter of fact the data sometimes doesn’t show what the drivers tell us.

“Certainly they have their hands full with a car that is not at all comfortable to drive or nice to drive or predictable to drive.”

The Austrian divulges that the issue lies in the fact that the drivers’ feedback does not match up with the data they are collecting.

“But the data doesn’t show these big swings. We haven’t had this situation before where it just doesn’t correlate what we see on the screens with what the driver feels,” he said.

READ: Lewis Hamilton ‘grateful’ for improved qualifying performance in Miami

“That’s making it even more difficult.”

Hamilton’s eight points move him back into the top six ahead of Lando Norris, while Russell continues to sit six points clear of Carlos Sainz after the Spaniard managed a podium finish in Florida.