The Mercedes F1 Team recovered a staggering third and fourth-place finish at the Austrian Grand Prix, after almost being forced to miss the weekend due to heavy crashes on Friday.
Both Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell crashed during Q3, with Hamilton going off at Turn Seven, and Russell at the final corner.
It left the team with an enormous repair job, especially on the side of the seven-time World Champion who needed a “completely rebuilt” car.
Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott revealed all the work that needed to be done to the cars, and how usually it wouldn’t be possible over a single weekend.
“When you crash two cars it’s always going to make for a very difficult weekend from then onwards,” he said in a video released by the team.
“We’ve done quite a lot of damage to the cars. We’ve broken both floors, we’ve broken both rear wings; we damaged quite a lot of suspension, on Lewis’s car; we also damaged the front wing and [did] some cosmetic damage to the chassis.
“So [it’s] damage that we can repair but not over a weekend. That meant completely rebuilding Lewis’s car from scratch, and it meant also trying to build one floor out of two. We had one complete spare [floor] we could fit and we had to get the best out of the two crashed floors to build another.”
With both Russell and Hamilton needing new rear-wings, the team had to make a difficult decision.
The German side only took three new rear-wings to the Red Bull Ring, with both drivers having damaged one in their crashes.
This left just one new rear-wing, designed to suit the fast circuit.
The team ultimately decided to give Hamilton the final new rear-wing, leaving Russell to take an old one which had too much downforce.
Elliot explained the team’s reasoning that led them to giving Russell an old rear-wing.
“We were compromised on George’s rear wing because we only had one complete spare rear wing,” said Elliott.
“That we chose to fit to Lewis’s car because he was going to have to come through the field, which meant that George had to fit a rear wing which was probably not the ideal level of downforce. It was a bit too much downforce for that circuit.”
Hamilton had to start from ninth for the Sprint race, whereas Russell lined up in fourth.
The only positive to the situation was that Russell was able to get some valuable track-time during Saturday’s FP2 session, allowing him to get used to the performance of the old rear-wing.
Hamilton’s car was still undergoing repairs for the majority of the session, before eventually venturing out onto the circuit for the closing minutes.
“Having rebuilt the cars we also had to dial in the set-up again and you’ve got very limited time in FP2 to do that and that was always going to be another compromise,” Elliot said.
Based on the volume of damage to Hamilton’s W13, it was a miracle that the seven-time World Champion even drove in FP2.
Elliot went into detail to explain everything that had to be done to the 37-year-old’s car, with the list being endless.
“In Lewis’s case he had done so much damage to the chassis – actually only cosmetic damage but damage that we couldn’t fix in the field – we had to sort of build his car from scratch on Saturday morning,” Elliot revealed.
“So, that car had to be built from nothing, fitting the engine, the gearbox, all the suspension, all of the car systems that bolt around the chassis. It all had to be put in place and the mechanics managed to do that in three-and-a-half hours on Saturday morning which is an amazing achievement and all credit to them for actually getting us back out and into FP2.”
Incredibly, it turned out that the team were just one more crash away from having to forfeit the Grand Prix, due to severely lacking spare parts.
A number of teams are known to be travelling lightly, with the cost-cap having a severe effect on producing spare parts.
“Having damaged two cars as badly as we did on Friday the drivers [were] now in a position where if we damage them in the sprint race we may well be in a position where we couldn’t race on Sunday,” said Elliott.
“So, all of that has to be factored in and all of that sort of compromises your weekend,” concluded Mercedes’ technical director.