The German automaker introduced a series of changes for the Silverstone race last weekend aimed at building on progress made with an initial development push in Spain.
And while the team doesn’t quite have the pace yet to fight Red Bull and Ferrari on equal footing, and clearly still has issues on tight, bumpy street circuits, there is a growing optimism within it that the turn has been turned on its misfortunes.
Because rather than focusing entirely on porpoising composition which proved painful for its drivers at the start of the campaign, Mercedes is now turning its attention to pure performance.
Mercedes Ground Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin said: “In the first few races we literally fought to survive. And the drivers were fighting to survive with a car that was incredibly difficult to work with.
“But we did a decent job of scoring points, actually, and taking opportunities when others were unreliable.
“Barcelona was useful to us because we had something that didn’t bounce on all the circuits we went to. But clearly a recent series of three street tracks highlighted another weakness and, to be honest , we’re just going through it: finding the problems, then we’ll try to apply our engineering skills to solve them.
“But I would say the road we want to take now is becoming clearer and clearer. And that’s encouraging from a development perspective.
“This [Silverstone] update is the first in the line we started creating in Barcelona.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13
Photo by: Dom Romney / Motorsport Images
While much of the attention on Mercedes’ development and progress has focused on its zero pontoon concept, the team has been adamant that its upper body shape has only had little role to play in early season problems.
Instead, the key factor at play has been managing airflow under and around the floor. And in those terms, his approach was overhauled significantly at the Spanish Grand Prix – even if the adjustments he made weren’t so visibly obvious.
“In terms of the concept of the car, we’ve actually changed our car a lot since its first race,” he said. “It behaves very, very differently from the first time it ran. Even if you look at it from a distance, it looks pretty much like what we had on the first ride aerodynamically, it’s quite a different beast now.
Asked by Motorsport.com if he really considers the team to have a new concept since launch, Shovlin said: “I think so, we have changed the concept at Barcelona, maybe in terms of how the car works. , to try to solve some problems. which bounces.
“And while our rebound issues, understandably, caused a lot of interest in the early races because we were in the worst part of the field, if you look at us here [at Silverstone]I think we’re actually close to the best ending.
“We are certainly not the best, but we are far from the worst. So I think we’ve made progress. And we are left with a slightly stiffer car than we would like. But it’s definitely a car we can start working with.
What seems to be Mercedes’ focus, and it’s something all teams are looking for, is the ability of their new generation of cars to produce their maximum downforce levels with as high a ride height as possible. . Right now the W13 is running too low and with too stiff a suspension setting for anything but the smoothest trails.
Shovlin added: “From day one with these regulations, the challenge was always going to be to generate downforce.
“It looks like we’re running out of resources, and that’s one of the things we’d like to develop. But we’re making progress in that direction.