Mercedes still “catching up” to Red Bull, Ferrari in 2023

When the Mercedes and the W13′ zeropods’ made their debut in Bahrain twelve months ago, “porpoising” quickly made itself known, becoming something of a nightmare for the team.

Amongst other issues, porpoising prevented the World Champions from fighting consistently for race wins last season. 

As the year progressed, this aerodynamic hopping was slowly addressed and better understood by the team.

This was an impressive achievement, with Mercedes finishing last year capable of managing porpoising and – crucially – simulating it in the factory.

Still, heading into the 2023 season, there are still doubts about the Mercedes W14.

This stemmed mostly from rumours of small issues during Mercedes’ filming day at Silverstone, which the team has already addressed and largely denied.

Mercedes W14: Porpoising resolved

We didn’t suffer from porpoising, which is good news,” Toto Wolff confirmed yesterday.

This is considered a good starting point for Mercedes as it allows engineers to concentrate on extracting more performance from the W14 rather than chasing after problems. 

This will help the team extract performance from their current package – before making updates to develop the car and try to fight with Red Bull and Ferrari.

We spent the first day collecting data, comparing it to last season’s data and how much the tools correspond with the factory,continued the Austrian team principal.

This is a standard procedure carried out by most teams, but it will be especially important for Mercedes to identify if the W14 has a ‘healthy’ base on which to work to optimize it.

Mercedes completed plenty of laps and carried out a lot of work on the Hard and Medium compounds. 

The team initially completed short runs, 4-5 laps each, before progressively lengthening them. Hamilton eventually approached 20-lap runs, which were quite positive on the C1 (Hardt tyre).

We have completed our program and have collected a lot of data. We have to keep pushing, focusing on ourselves.

“It’s hard to know where we stand compared to the others, but we’ll have a clearer picture in the coming days.Lewis Hamilton said.

Andrew Shovlin made similar comments:

The performance picture is never clear after just one day of testing, so it’s hard to say where we are.

However, the pessimism/low profile that surrounds the German team – both officially and unofficially – continues.

Currently, Mercedes does not believe they are at the level of Red Bull and Ferrari, even if the latter also appeared very unstable yesterday afternoon (Ferrari expects to address this).

“It always takes a few days to figure out a new car, but we have ideas where we want to improve the balance.

“It is encouraging that the W14 has a much calmer and more stable platform than the W13.”  the Trackside Engineering Director affirmed before continuing:

We will work starting from the assumption that we are catching up with Red Bull and Ferrari. For this, we have to do everything possible to find performance in view of the first race here in a week.

Mercedes W14: aerodynamic efficiency has improved. The rear wing is still ‘BIG’ – but only for better data collection. 

One of the W13’s main problems was its high resistance to forward movement, which was a significant limitation, especially against the very fast Red Bull RB18.

Part of this high drag was caused by forcibly raised ground clearance, especially in the early part of the season, used to counter the heavy porpoising.

Once the porpoising was resolved, the team’s remaining weaknesses could not be resolved in 2022 – partly due to the limitation of the budget cap

For this reason, the Brackley-based team has invested the necessary time and budget to solve these issues on the W14.

There is some positive news on this front. The team’s large double spoon rear wing, often used last year, has remained on the W14.

The decision to keep this wing during tests for better correlation and data collection – although this should change for the first weekend of the season. 

Mercedes has a higher downforce wing and more drag than the medium downforce wings of Ferrari and Red Bull.

Most significantly, Ferrari appears to be very unloaded compared to last season, to the extent they have gained 7 km/h in top speed in their best lap from testing compared to the 2022 qualifying.

Meanwhile, Red Bull and Mercedes have lost 2 and 1 km/h, respectively.

As a result, engine mappings aside, it is no surprise the W14 was still several tenths of a second behind Max Verstappen’s Red Bull on the straights of Bahrain yesterday.

On the other hand, the behaviour of the W14 when cornering is better, especially in the slower ones, while more nervous in the medium and fast ones.

This is partly thanks to the higher downforce wing specification, which immediately improved Russell and Hamilton’s confidence.

Mercedes has suffered less than most teams from the important tyre changes this year, with the fronts pushing much more than the 2022 specification.

This has pushed several teams to find a new balance to avoid making the rear too light.

Author: Piergiuseppe Donadoni

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang