Mercedes have explained how the minor rule changes introduced over the course of the winter break are having a significant effect on their weekend experimentation and preparations.
With Formula 1's calendar growing to 23 races for 2022, steps were taken to compress the length of a Grand Prix weekend in a bid to reduce the workload on attending staff.
However, if a team hasn't hit the ground running in terms of their on-track performance, such as in Mercedes' case, the new measures are simply adding to their current tribulations.
Speaking ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, Mercedes released a short video explaining how the constraints introduced for a weekend are having an impact.
Thursdays have been truncated
Thursdays were previously used as preparation days by the teams, while the drivers went off and took care of obligatory media duties.
The FIA moved these media duties to Friday mornings, while also introducing time limits on when the mechanics can work on the cars.
"[On] Thursday[s], we used to be able to start whenever we wanted," Mercedes' Head of Trackside Engineering, Andrew Shovlin, explained.
now there is a start and an end time that gives you an 11-hour day which, for a day at the circuit, is actually quite a short day.
on a Thursday, you're not allowed to fire up the power unit until 16:00
in Europe and, again, you're going to be finishing at eight o'clock on a
"So that preparation time, the time to build the cars has been much constrained [and] it's a lot harder to bring bits in late. You've really got to know what you're going to be building into those cars and have them there from Wednesday.
"That's the only way that you can get the cars ready for Thursday night and ready to run for Friday,"
Less operating time for Fridays and Saturdays
However, even once the Grand Prix weekend gets underway properly on Friday, Shovlin explained that there are still strict time limits imposed on the teams to allow them to make changes.
"That same theme continues into the Friday and the Saturday," he said.
"On the Friday night, we've got less time to work on the cars. So the mechanics have only got three hours after running and then the covers need to be on.
"The engineers have an extra couple of hours. The reason that was done in the regulations was to avoid the temptation to go and set up an office in a hotel room, where you'd then be talking about the run plan or any of the changes you might make. But, again, that's a lot less than we've had before.
"If the car's not done on Friday night,
well, you're going to be working on it on Saturday morning. And, [in the] worst
case, it wouldn't be ready for the FP3 session.
"After qualifying, [there's] another shrinking of the time available. The mechanics, by the time they get the cars back from the FIA, will only have a matter of half an hour or so before the covers are on."
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Mercedes "still adapting" to the new processes
Shovlin added that there's even been a knock-on effect in the form of pit-stop practice, due to the cars not being intact for long enough to allow teams to roll them out for their crews to get in the important legwork with the real machine.
While the rule changes are quite minor in general, he said it's resulted in a period of adaptation for the team.
"[It's] quite a challenge," Shovlin admitted.
"It does give us more free time in the weekend, you're not working such long hours, everyone can get a bit more sleep. But, at the moment, we're still adapting to those changes and working out how to organise the work flow around the weekend."
Sporting Director Ron Meadows agreed with Shovlin, and said Mercedes will take time to assess whether their new processes are as effective as possible over the coming race weekends.
"It's compressed the work into a smaller period and started the year quite tricky," he commented.
"Mainly because you're very short on parts – I can see it being a problem. I think maybe we'll need to review as the championship [goes on] over the next two or three races to see if we've done the right thing."
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