Mercedes have arrived at the Miami Grand Prix with a new front wing, rear wing and wing beam as they seek to mitigate the “porpoising” problem that has been affecting them this season.
The new technical regulations means that the cars are running lower to the ground as a result of the re-introduction of ground effect aerodynamics, and this has led many of the cars to bounce off the surface of the track, costing them time on the straight and affecting handling in the corners.
Particularly volatile has been the bouncing on the Mercedes, and there have been suppositions that their skinny sidepods are partly responsible for that due to the exposure they give to the underside of the car.
Norbert Haug, former Mercedes engines boss, also theorised that their cooling issues are a direct legacy of the near abandonment of their sidepods.
Their bouncing looked particularly bad in Imola two weeks ago as Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell both perennially struggled to break into the top 10 until Sunday’s race, in which the 24-year-old finished an impressive fourth.
The seven-time champion, meanwhile, had to lift on the straights to avoid excessive “porpoising” while stuck behind AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, and the W13’s seeming lack of capacity to run in dirty air saw Hamilton finish down in 13th.
Trackside engineer Andrew Shovlin said after the completion of the weekend that the engineers in Brackley were hoping to have something ready for this weekend’s race in Florida that, if nothing else, will help them better comprehend the phenomenon.
“Is there an aerodynamic solution that we can apply to the car that will make this problem go away?” he pondered.
“Now, being realistic we think this will be something we approach in steps rather than one big moment where the whole thing vanishes.
“But we are seeing encouraging signs. As I said, we are hoping to bring parts to the car soon, maybe even Miami where we can hopefully see progress on this issue.”
Indeed, the German outfit have arrived in the United States with a new front and rear wing designed to remove some of the downforce in the hope that this will alleviate the abrasion between the floor and the track surface.
They have also installed a new wing beam on the rear of the car, which is highly conspicuous in the fact that it is extremely thinner than the one they had previously.
Subsequently, the car that is estimated to weigh around 813kg will dip in weight this weekend.
Team principal Toto Wolff does not know for sure if the adaptations are a winner, but he indicated that the team are experimenting to see if the results on track match what they are seeing in the wind tunnel.
“Since our return from Italy we have learned as much as possible from the weekend, and at the same time we have gained further insights in the wind tunnel and in simulations,” he said.
“We have found several directions for improving the car, and we will be conducting experiments in Miami to correlate those simulations, and hopefully confirm the development path for the coming races.”
It may be a risk to trial new parts with seemingly few assurances as to their functionality given the $140 million budget this year, but Mercedes will be hoping the latest evolution of their car can launch them closer to the podium places this weekend.