The German automaker introduced a number of changes for last weekend’s Silverstone race to build on the progress it made with an early development push in Spain.
And although the team does not yet have the pace to fight Red Bull and Ferrari on equal terms, and clearly still struggles on tight and bumpy street circuits, there is growing optimism within it that the corner has become their problems.
Because instead of Mercedes’ entire focus being on branding the porpoise which proved to be a pain for its drivers in the opening phase of the campaign, its mindset is now shifting towards pure performance.
Mercedes track engineering director Andrew Shovlin said: “In the first couple of races, we were literally fighting for survival. And drivers were struggling to survive with a car that was incredibly difficult to work with.
“But we did a decent job of scoring points, actually, and taking chances when others weren’t reliable.
“Barcelona was useful for us because we had something that didn’t bounce around at all the circuits we went to. But clearly a recent series of three street tracks highlighted another weakness and to be honest we’re just looking into it – looking for the issues and then trying to apply our engineering skills to solve them.
“But I would say that the route we want to take now is becoming clearer. And that’s encouraging from a development standpoint.
“East [Silverstone] update is the first of the line that we started to create in Barcelona.”
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W13
Photo by: Dom Romney/Motorsport Images
While much of the focus on Mercedes’ development and progress has been on its zero sidepod concept, the team has decided that the shape of the upper body has had little role to play in the problems of early racing. season.
Instead, the key factor at play has been airflow management under and around the floor. And in those terms, his approach was significantly revised at the Spanish Grand Prix, although the adjustments he made were not so visibly obvious.
“In terms of the concept of the car, we’ve actually changed it a lot since it was first launched,” he said. “It is behaving very, very differently than when it was first run. Although if you look at it from a distance it looks pretty much like what we had in round one aerodynamically, now it’s quite a different beast.”
Asked by Motorsport.com if he really thinks the team has a new concept from launch, Shovlin said: “I think so, we changed the concept in Barcelona maybe in terms of the way the car worked, to try to work out some of the problems”. that bounce.
“And while our rebounding issues rightfully generated a lot of interest in the early races, because we were at the bottom end of the pack, if you look at us here [at Silverstone]I think we are actually close to the best end.
“We are certainly not the best, but we are far from the worst. So I think we’ve made progress. And what we’re left with is a car that’s a bit stiffer than we’d like. But without a doubt it is a car with which we can start working”.
What appears to be Mercedes’ focus, and is something all the teams are pursuing, is the ability of its new generation of cars to produce their maximum levels of downforce at the highest possible ride height. Right now the W13 runs too low and with too stiff a suspension setup for anything but the smoothest of tracks.
Shovlin added: “From day one with these regulations, the challenge has always been to generate downforce at height.
“It seems that we are running out of energy, and that is one of the things that we would like to develop. But we are making progress in that direction.”