Bouncing main issue with Mercedes W15 F1 car

Mercedes has been consistent in saying its W15 is a step forward compared to the recalcitrant W13 and W14 cars with which it opened F1’s latest ground-effect era in 2022 and 2023, but mainly in the sense that its handling is more predictable.

As he addressed the media in the Bahrain paddock ahead of this weekend’s season opener, Russell was asked if there was any specific hangover from the weaknesses Mercedes’ previous cars still being felt in the W15.

“I would say this year’s car is a totally different race car,” he replied.

“To the point that the things we learned from last year in the way we were setting the car up, we will need to approach it differently this year. So, there’s a lot to learn about this.

“And it feels much closer to how a race car should feel.

“But the one area that we need to continue to work on is probably the bouncing that we’re seeing. We got caught up with a bit of bouncing [in testing] last week.

“We were pushing the car really aggressively. But as I said, we’re dealing with a totally different beast this year, whereas 2022, 2023 they were both cut from the same cloth.”

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

The bouncing Russell refers to is centred on braking stability, rather than porpoising and bouncing problems Mercedes encountered so famously in the 2022 campaign with the ‘zeropod’ W13.

Autosport observed during pre-season testing that Mercedes was among the worst cars to be bouncing at its front end when its drivers applied the brakes for Bahrain’s tight, downhill right-hand Turn 8 hairpin.

Russell said Mercedes is “still pushing the boundaries” and “exploiting the limitations of the car”.

He added: “That’s what testing is for. I’d like to think you’ll be seeing much less of that this weekend.

“So, three years on [from the start of the new ground-effect era], I think a lot of teams can still enter this circuit and set the car up in a too low and aggressive manner.

“But it’s always a fine line because that’s where the downforce is.”

When asked if he was confident in Mercedes 2024 upgrade plan in the context of the W15’s early issues, Russell also said his team was “lacking downforce”.

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Erik Junius

“I’m confident the development slope of this car should be greater than we’ve seen in the past two cars, because we’ve got a better platform,” he said.

“But it’s just outright performance [where the car is lacking]. The car is feeling nice to drive, it’s feeling good to drive. But we’re just lacking downforce.”

Hamilton, speaking in the Bahrain race’s pre-event press conference also on Wednesday, expanded further on his suggestion at testing’s end that “we know we’ve got work to do and we’re not yet where we want to be”.

“We have a better platform to work off from this year,” he said of the W15. “We still have some problems that we’re having to work through and it’s not perfect.

“But, it’s definitely a better starting place from the past two years. So, we are relatively happy in that respect.

“We’re not where we want to be – competing with these guys [Red Bull and Ferrari] at the front – but we’ll work towards it.”

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Hamilton hasn’t lost faith in Mercedes

Hamilton was also asked to respond to a line Russell utters in the latest series of Netflix’s Drive to Survive, where the younger Briton states if his team-mate were to leave Mercedes it should be taken as a sign he has lost faith in its prospects.

Given this was said in the context of Hamilton’s 2023 contract negotiations and how he has since used an option in his final two-year deal to head to Ferrari for 2025, Hamilton rejected the suggestion he had finally lost faith in Mercedes with his choice to sign for the Scuderia.

“No, honestly, it wasn’t,” he said. “I truly believe this team is going to win another championship.

“It’s an incredible group of people and it’s really well run.

“Mercedes has such an incredible history and from the board down, they are ultimately really heavily invested in racing and in so many areas.

“Regardless [of] whether or not this is a championship-winning car – that won’t have any bearing on how I feel about the next stage of my career.

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“It’s all about a new chapter in my life and I really feel like I’ve done everything that I possibly could do with this team. And heading towards the back end of my career, I love a challenge and this is the ultimate challenge, really.

“To go to a team that is incredibly iconic, has also amazing history, but also has not had as much success as I guess they would’ve hoped in the past decade or so.

“They’re already looking very strong this weekend, which is positive for them. My goal is to beat them this year and obviously that switches next year also.”

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