Mercedes brings latest aero update in Austin

After eight years of absolute dominance, the Mercedes team has fallen to a sub-top in 2022. The team is too fast for the midfield, but often too slow to keep up with Red Bull and Ferrari.

Thanks to bad luck and mistakes from the Scuderia in particular The silver arrow still relatively regularly found on the scene, but problems with the special zeropod design persisted. Furthermore, due to the inconsistent behavior of W13, the formation from Brackley has not yet been able to formulate a clear strategy to do better next year.

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Unpredictable results

Mercedes struggled with powerful guinea pigs in the opening race of the season, which ultimately hid fundamental design flaws. It was only in Azerbaijan that the team found out what the car’s real weaknesses were.

Since then, Toto’s shop has been working hard to get the car back on track, with very unpredictable results. The team was 1.8 seconds behind on pole at Spa, but just three tenths a week later at Zandvoort. The difference was the same between Singapore and Japan.

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Latest update

With four races to go, Mercedes is trying one last time to teach the W13 diva some manners. With a thorough aerodynamic update to the Austin, the team hopes to not only gain speed, but also pave the way for a better concept for the 2023 machine. In Japan’s debrief video, Mercedes track engineer Andrew Shovlin explained the plan:

“It’s our last step in aerodynamic development, and it will hopefully give us a little bit more performance. But more importantly with each step, [is dat] we learn more and more and we can take these lessons with us to next year. We’ve also removed some weight from the components to hopefully bring the car closer to the weight limit.”

“It is very difficult for us to predict where we will be [op de grid]. In Singapore Lewis was very close to pole position, but in Suzuka both cars were well behind the lead. Our race pace has been quite strong. Hopefully if we make a move we can get into contention with the Ferraris and Red Bulls, but qualifying is hard for us to predict at the moment. But like I said, it’s a lot about learning and we’re definitely going to do our best in the last four races.”

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The big problem

Now that rejection is no longer an issue, Mercedes is focusing on another major issue: the lack of aerodynamic efficiency. Unlike the Red Bull RB18, for example, the Mercedes W13 is unable to generate competitive levels of downforce with low drag. Mercedes must therefore always drive with more wings than the competitors, which gives even more resistance and has a negative effect on top speed. Combined with this year’s significantly weaker Mercedes engine, it puts it at a serious disadvantage.

The problem became painfully clear to Lewis Hamilton in his battle with Esteban Ocon at Suzuka. Despite superior cornering speeds and traction, the Brit could not get past the Alpine. As soon as he got out of the slipstream, his Mercedes immediately fell back. Shovlin acknowledges that restoring the drag/downforce ratio will be a key issue in the development of the W14:

“One of the fundamental things we need to improve on next year’s car is to have more downforce at lower drag levels. Then we can run the lighter tuned wings and still be competitive in the corners.”

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