With two races in the bag at this early point of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship, it's become an accepted fact that the Mercedes W13 is a car struggling for competitiveness.
While there was still prudence in waiting to write off Mercedes' chances after an inconclusive Bahrain Grand Prix, the accumulation of data from that weekend, combined with the team's lack of speed in Saudi Arabia, has resulted in the team's opponents considering the matter closed.
For now, until F1 returns to Europe for races at Imola and Catalunya, the 'Mercedes file' is shut.
The most obvious issue Mercedes are struggling with is that of porpoising but, in reality, according to the rumours RacingNews365.com has heard from other teams' aerodynamicists, this is simply the most evident aspect of the W13's problems.
The main problem, upon which the negative effects of the overall competitiveness of the car appears to hinge, is seemingly linked to a non-constant aerodynamic load – the most significant percentage deficit being an apparent downforce shortfall from the floor.
Upon our investigations, the floor equates to about 80 per cent of the total aerodynamic load, with the remainder produced by the bodywork and wings.
In a bid to reduce the extent of the porpoising, which is a problem as it reduces the amount of load produced by the Venturi channels under the floor, the engineers in Brackley have had to take a particularly conservative attitude in terms of the car's ride height. In simple terms, the floor has been raised above the ground more than it should be in order to maximise the load it produces.
By using greater ride heights than their rivals, with rumours of around 7-8 millimetres difference, the load produced by the W13's floor is reduced by more than 20 per cent.
Mercedes cut chunks out of their wings
In order to recoup some of this loss, Mercedes have had to increase the amount of downforce generated by their wings, thus creating drag.
While the effects of doing this weren't as devastating at the Bahrain International Circuit, a track with reasonable downforce requirements, the impact was far more noticeable at the low downforce Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Saudi Arabia.
As a result, Mercedes took the drastic solution of cutting along the trailing edge of the rear wing, as well as cutting a semi-circle into the last flap of the front wing.
These interventions certainly seem to be from the historic F1 days, rather than the clinical and precise simulation and data-led sport of today.
Updates on the way for the W13
Mercedes are expected to equip the W13 with an updated floor design for the Imola round, with an evolved aerodynamic package to include wing tweaks and a sidepod re-design at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Will these changes be enough to see Mercedes join in the fight with Ferrari and Red Bull at the front? Certainly, in the paddock, there were those betting against it – particularly if the budget cap is to be respected.
The Mercedes power unit had also come under scrutiny at this early point of the season, due to its apparent horsepower deficit to offerings from other manufacturers.
The rumours suggest it is affected by the position of the radiators, given they are partially covered by the sculpted sides of the chassis, which could affect the heat exchange for the power unit.
As aforesaid, it is just a rumour, but it appears strange that all the Mercedes-powered cars have failed to show competitively so far, despite varying chassis and aero designs.
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