Mercedes developing floor upgrade to leapfrog Ferrari and Red Bull

Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have managed seven podiums between them this season.

Plenty of work has been going on at Brackley in recent weeks to solve the endemic problem running through the Mercedes team of late.

The German side have had all hands on deck since the beginning of the season trying to eradicate “porpoising” and bouncing which, as well as costing them bags of performance, have been causing some physical torment for George Russell and Sir Lewis Hamilton.

The latter struggling to clamber out of his W13 at the end of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was proof enough that something needed to change, but the last thing on anyone’s mind was panic.

This is a group of engineers and mechanics who have been at the side since the BAR and Honda days when, particularly at the end of 2008, things looked a lot more bleak than they do now.

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The 2009 title victory with Jenson Button, who would seal the Constructors’ Championship with Rubens Barrichello under the Brawn name, was the end of one chapter, and the start of a historic one.

Eight straight constructors’ crowns would follow upon the turn of the hybrid era after Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher had put in the hours to develop the car, and it would be the karting buddies that would bring home seven straight drivers’ crowns between them.

This has very much been a season of working back towards their previous success for the German side, and the last few rounds have been extremely promising.

Between them, Hamilton and Russell have been on the podium in all of the last four races, with the seven-time champion managing three straight rostrum appearances for the first time this season, giving indications that the W13 has a clearer working window that is easier to exploit.

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This has come from months of dedication to eradicate “porpoising” by correcting aerodynamic efficiencies, and then bouncing when the floor and suspension could not sustain the low ride height brought about by the new technical regulations.

Of course, the wooden plank on the bottom of the cars has been a cause of controversy after some teams were found to be using some very smart tricks to avoid wearing away the skid block, giving their drivers more cushioning down the straight.

This will changed as of the Belgian Grand Prix after the teams return from the summer shutdown and, if Red Bull and Ferrari have indeed been using some loopholes in the regulations, they will not be allowed to any more.

This could certainly bring the Silver Arrows back into play with a simpler set of rules, but it will also answer a very big question: have Red Bull and Ferrari really been using a game-changing piece of innovation, or have they simply built a fundamentally better race car than Mercedes anyway?

We have seen the W13 work exceptionally at circuits such as Silverstone, but horribly at tracks like Monaco and Baku, and their performance varies depending on the smoothness of the track surface, as well as the nature of the corners.

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The eight-time champions seem to have found better performance at tracks with high-speed corners, so this weekend’s French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard may suit them just fine.

A massive sense of anticipation will await at the Hungarian Grand Prix before the teams split for the summer though, as the track surface is an awful lot rougher than Paul Ricard, and there are more awkward, lower speed corners that require patience on the throttle and solid mechanical grip.

What will help them compared to before is that they essentially have some invisible bits and pieces on the car as part of their development of the misbehaving 2022 challenger, and if they can perform well at the Hungaroring, there will be a lot of buoyance going into the second part of the season.

This upgrade, which is “one you don’t see,” according to the engineers, quoted by Auto Motor und Sport, will undoubtedly be a floor alteration, and if it can further stabilise the W13, it could further enhance the already immaculate tyre wear we saw in Silverstone and Austria.

Can they win either of the last two races before the summer break? If things go their way, then why not? 

But it would take an extraordinary Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly or indeed Sergio Perez situation for that to happen, because the pace of the Mercedes car is not quite there… yet.