Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has said that anything is possible as the Silver Arrows ponder the changes they might make in a bid to improve the performance of the car.
The new technical regulations have caught the Brackley-based side out early in 2022, with “porpoising,” adverse corner handling, tyre warmup and straight-line speed all proving to be a real issue for the eight-time constructors’ champions.
They unveiled a new design of the W13 at the second pre-season test in Bahrain which saw the sidepods all but removed from the car, leaving the underbody exposed as the resulting extrusion only seemed to aggravate the bouncing.
New winglets in Imola did little to improve their fortunes, but a revised front and rear wing as well as much a much thinner wing beam appeared to make somewhat of a difference, but their pace was still a long way away from Red Bull and Ferrari.
The Spanish Grand Prix will be the first chance the teams get to cross reference their current packages with the data they obtained during the first pre-season test in Barcelona, so Wolff would rather see how the current iteration of the W13 differs from what they ran with in February before making any drastic changes.
“Well I wouldn’t discount anything, but we need to give all our people benefit of the doubt,” he said.
“They have produced great race cars in the past and we believe that this is the route to go. Barcelona is definitely going to be a point in time where we are able to correlate with what we saw in February and gather more data.
“I’m also annoyed about saying the same thing about gathering data and making experiments, but it’s physics and not mystics, and therefore you have to unpick the data.”
The Austrian believes that the skinnier sidepods can be a winner for the German outfit, but he insists that the team must discern how to improve the balance of the car down the straights and in the corners, particularly on tracks that necessitate more downforce and therefore a lower ride height.
“If you walk through the grid, you can see that our floor edges stick out much wider than anybody else’s. That gives it a different way, or much more scope, of possible instability,” he added.
“I think that’s where our concept varies. Clearly the Barcelona launch car is much slower on paper, but we need to find out how we can make the current car work predictably for the drivers.”
So while a new design is possible for Spain, the 50-year-old emphasises that they can gain crucial information and take a step towards solving their issues if they ride it out with what they have.
“I think we are still committed to the current concept – and you need to be. If you don’t believe, and you give the other one a 50 per cent chance, then you’ve got to switch now,” affirmed Wolff.
“We are faithful to the current concept. We are not looking at the lady next door to see if we like it more or not. It’s still good.
“As a matter of fact, we need to understand, before you make a decision to switch to another concept, where did one go wrong. And what is the goodness of the concept and what is the badness of the concept? That is a question you can only respond to yourself.”
He confirms that it will be after the race in Spain in just under a fortnight that the Silver Arrows will be able to determine the best way forward.
“I would be asking ourselves to get an answer after Barcelona, because that’s the real correlation we have. And by then, we will look at ourselves in the mirror and say, did we get it wrong or not?” he added.
Mercedes’ performance in Miami looked stronger than in Bologna, but a fifth place for George Russell and a P6 for Lewis Hamilton exemplified the ground they still have to make up to Ferrari and Red Bull.