Mercedes update new hope for Hamilton and Russell?
Andrew Shovlin, the Mercedes Formula One team's senior race engineer, says the final upgrade package for the W13 will focus on learning for next season.
The US Grand Prix will see both aero updates and some weight-saving elements as the car was around 10kg over the limit earlier in the year.
While the aero package is designed to help Lewis Hamilton and George Russell at Austin, the team is also eyeing developments for next year’s W14: “It’s our final step in aero development and hopefully that will give us a bit more performance “Shovlin says in a Mercedes video.
“But what’s important is that we’re learning more and more with every step, and that learning we can carry over into the next year. So that’s part of it, and there are also a couple of parts where we’ve taken some weight out of components, which will hopefully bring the car closer to the weight limit.”
“Our race pace has been quite strong so far”
However, the team makes no predictions about the potential benefits of the package: “It’s very difficult for us to predict where we’ll be. At Singapore, Lewis was very close to pole position, but at Suzuka, both cars were a long way from the front .”
“Our race pace has been pretty strong so far,” says Shovlin. “If we make a move then hopefully we can get into the fight with the Ferraris and the Red Bulls but qualifying is really difficult for us to predict at the moment.”
“But like I said, there’s a lot to learn and we’ll certainly do our best in the last four races,” said Shovlin, who concedes that the Circuit of the Americas isn’t an easy track to ride. However, he hopes that the work on the infamous bumps will help Mercedes.
“It’s a tricky track and it was that for us last year too. It was very bumpy, the tires overheated a lot and we weren’t doing as well as Red Bull on the softer tires.”
“They’ve renewed the surface so hopefully the bump issues have reduced a bit. But this year it’s very difficult to really know where you’re going to be on the track before you get there,” said Shovlin.
“We’re not going to make any predictions about where we’re going to perform. We just have to go there on Friday, see what problems we have and then see if we can solve them with the set-up.”
Shovlin admits doubts about Mercedes
Shovlin also admits that Mercedes now has doubts about the decision to stick with a high-downforce rear wing during the Suzuka weekend, which has compounded the top-speed issues drivers have been struggling with this season. The race revealed a key weakness that the W14 needs to fix.
“We decided to stay at the highest level of downforce,” says Shovlin. “Part of that decision was that it would give us the best lap times in the conditions of the race.”
“In dry conditions there would have been a lot of tire wear but we had also seen the rain that started on Sunday and we felt that could be an advantage in a wet race.”
“Unfortunately, the DRS was never activated and that meant overtaking was very, very difficult and perhaps a lower downforce setting would have been the right decision,” admits Shovlin.
“But basically for next year we have to improve the car so that it has more downforce with less drag, and then we can drive with the lighter wings and still be competitive in the corners.”
Shovlin admits mistakes
Shovlin also concedes the team made a mistake in bringing Hamilton and Russell in for a double stop at Suzuka when switching from wet to intermediate tyres. Russell lost places as a result and immediately complained about the decision.
“Well we went through all the timing and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the right decision. We should have done what George asked for which was to give him the round in clean air. We had seen that the Intermediates were much faster, so you would have lost time on the track on the wet tires.”
“But the problem was that George and Lewis were a little too close for us to pit stop without losing time, and that time ended up costing George the position on Tsunoda and possibly even the position on Lando. That made it for him a little harder to get past those cars and find clean air.”
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