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Mercedes on 2022 struggles – 'The signs were there from very early on'

After Mercedes' W13 suffered with porpoising and bouncing early in 2022, Andrew Shovlin and James Vowles say they knew from very early on that they were set for a challenging year.

Hamilton Russell
To news overview © XPBimages

Mercedes say they knew their W13 was going to be a difficult car even before the first official test of 2022.

After almost unbroken success from 2014 to 2021, Mercedes fell back to earth with a bump in 2022, as F1's new technical regulations saw the Silver Arrows struggle badly with porpoising and bouncing at the start of the season.

Having been accustomed to challenging for top honours, Mercedes were instead relegated to scrapping for points and occasional podium finishes, as Red Bull and Ferrari instead duelled for race wins.

As Mercedes' Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin explains, the team realised the W13 was going to be a handful even before it had turned a wheel in anger.

"The signs were there from the very, very early running, even on a filming day that we did at Silverstone," said Vowles.

"We then went for three days in Barcelona and the car was not that competitive, but we were expecting a big update that we were going to bring to the Bahrain test, and that was the point that we realised that we had a serious issue.

"We put the update kit on and it simply didn't make the car go quicker. It's been an interesting year from there on, but it has been a lot of work to try and get on top of those problems."

Vowles – Imola was a low point

Mercedes' Motorsport Strategy Director James Vowles noted that the team's nadir came at the season's fourth race at Imola, in which George Russell salvaged fourth place, some 40 seconds behind winner Max Verstappen, but Lewis Hamilton could only finish 13th, one lap down.

"There were certainly some tough moments in the year," said Vowles.

"Personally, I remember Imola was a real low point. It was a Sprint race and we really suffered.

"We struggled there; we were fighting at the back of the grid at certain points."

Why Barcelona was significant

Despite the difficulties Mercedes suffered at the start of the year, the team's performance steadily improved throughout 2022, culminating in Russell leading Hamilton home for a 1-2 finish in Brazil for the Silver Arrows' only win of the season.

Mercedes had improved enough to be regularly finishing on the podium by the second half of the year, and Shovlin said the team's biggest breakthrough in solving the W13's problems came at the season's sixth round, in Spain.

"[The Spanish Grand Prix] was where we made the biggest step in getting on top of the aero bouncing phenomenon," said Shovlin.

"We were able to have pretty good performance but also it allowed us to see that once we'd solved that issue, there were still other issues to solve with the ride of the car – it wasn't very good over the bumps and it gave us the clarity to work on those next steps.

"Whilst it was only a small step in the right direction from a learning point of view, it was a really important update."

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