Mercedes still battling with bouncing issues in F1 2024

Jaden Diaz
14 Mar, 2024

The Jeddah Grand Prix was more than a disappointment for Mercedes, with the two W15 cars scoring just ten points. The Brackley-based team failed to optimise Lewis Hamilton’s race after making a strategy gamble. However, this was the least of the team’s issues.

In fact, the balance of the car was terrible. Moreover, the car suffered from bouncing – especially in the high-speed corners during qualifying. Sector 1 was an ordeal, given the W15’s low aerodynamic load at the rear – which caused some oversteer.

Mercedes begins analysis ahead of Melbourne to limit bouncing and rear instability

Mercedes finished the Saudi Arabian GP in sixth and ninth position, thus recording the worst start to the season (also considering their results in Bahrain) of the hybrid era.

Seg-up was a significant issue for Mercedes, who still demonstrated a poor understanding of the new W15. During the 50-lap race, both drivers suffered from bouncing.

This was very limiting in the high-speed corners, where the drivers suffered from bouncing.

Andrew Shovlin, in the classic Mercedes Race Debrief, discussed several interesting topics.

One of these included the set-up choices (and ongoing changes) adopted by the two drivers during the race weekend:

“It’s quite rare that we opt for an identical setup between the two cars. On Friday, however, we had very similar setups.

“The drivers then gave us their feedback after the FP1 session, and at that point, they went in different directions.

“However, both had complained about the bouncing. So, we were trying to improve it. You can play with ground clearances and stiffness.

“We also tried to fine-tune the balance by seeking a compromise between all types of curves. At that point, the balance we had in that session was probably not as good as FP1.

“As a result, from there on, we started to converge back in the general direction we came from.

“But learning only happens when you change things and then you can see real differences.

“You also look at the overall performances of the two cars. But fundamentally, the limits that we had in qualifying and in the race were essentially the same for both.

“So, it’s something deeper that we need to dig into and understand.”

Mercedes

The British engineer then outlined the significant data collected from the opening rounds of 2024.

Data obtained from Jeddah will be of particular use to organise next weekend in Australia better, starting with free practice:

“Yes, there is definitely data we are collecting from Jeddah. We are also looking at the data from the Bahrain race and the Bahrain test.

“And we will come up with a plan on how to approach the first free practice in Melbourne.

“But it’s not just based on what we did in Jeddah. There is also a lot of work going on within the aerodynamics department.

“We’re trying to design some experiments there that will hopefully give us some good direction.”

The point on the strategies in the race, the difficulties in the first sector and the top speed of the W15 in the fight against McLaren

Subsequently, we reflected on a different strategy in the race, perhaps opting for the softs at the start with Lewis Hamilton, who started far behind:

“What we had seen in free practice was that the Soft was quite good in the first laps. It had a decent grip, but then it would start to fall apart.

“The rubber is quite soft, and graining would have occurred. The only reason we could have chosen the softs at the start was the hope of a Safety Car within the first laps.”

At Mercedes, there was also a lot of debate about the choice not to stop Lewis Hamilton in the pits under the Safety Car, thus making a double pit stop:

“With hindsight, we would have done it. What we didn’t know, however, was whether there would be another accident.

“And the other thing we didn’t know was how much they would be during new tyres.

“Furthermore, if you were Lewis, as the rear car, you would have had to build a deep gap with George by blocking the opponents so as not to waste additional time in the pit.”

Shovlin also clarified another point of the race. This was regarding Hamilton’s defence against Piastri and his later difficulties when attacking Lando Norris.

“In terms of car performance, we were not strong in the first sector, but we were very fast in sector two and sector three, having good straight-line speed.

“So when Piastri was earning a lot in the first sector, Lewis could then build a little in the latter two sectors.

“And it was quite difficult for him to get close and be able to pass. Piastri also had the benefit of DRS.

“But realistically, if he can’t get close by about half a second, it’s very difficult to overtake on this track.

“We consider Jeddah as the third most difficult circuit to overcome. So that was a factor.”

The Silver Arrows suffered all weekend in the high-speed corners, losing a lot of time with their competitors:

“Several things can explain this lack of speed in the fast corners. One of them was that the balance wasn’t great.

“Consequently, with the walls very close, the rider does not feel confident in pushing. Furthermore, we very often had oversteer when pushing hard.

“One can easily imagine how disturbing this is for pilots. In qualifying we were also struggling a bit with bouncing.

“This phenomenon was less present in the race as there is more fuel in the car. We have to work hard this week, as Melbourne will have a not too dissimilar layout.”

The Briton finally focused on the sudden problem encountered by Russell on the last lap (a puncture was assumed), in which he lost around three seconds to Bearman:

“He opened up on the radio and said, ‘front right puncture’. What he was feeling was actually a vibration that suddenly appeared.

“He was worried that it was the tyre that was losing pressure. But we looked at our data, and everything was okay.

“Furthermore, we engineers can see the pressure values ​​on all four tyres live and therefore would normally spot a puncture even before the rider.

“We also checked the brakes, and everything was fine, which is obviously one of the fundamental parameters. 

“As a result, we told him the gap to the car behind only so he knew that he didn’t need to push. Now the tyre, we can’t control it because it belongs to Pirelli.”

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