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January 21, 2023

Mercedes admits its Formula 1 car needs “fundamental improvements” to be more competitive at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, as a comparison with the paced Ferrari highlights its overall losses.

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished seventh and 12th Friday practice in Baku, suffering from poor ride quality and poor grip – a continuation of the problems that plagued Mercedes in Monaco two weeks ago.

The bounce on the straights, which is again different from the porpoising experienced in early races, also appears to be costing Mercedes dearly in terms of speed and lap times.

“Overall, we’re not in a good position and this is a situation where we need to be looking for fundamental improvements rather than a case of fine-tuning,” admitted ground engineering manager Andrew Shovlin.

Hamilton said ride quality was the hardest thing of his day and said Mercedes “tried something experimental on my car and it didn’t feel so good to me”.

The seven-time world champion had started ahead of Russell in FP1 on Friday but was more concerned about the total loss to point guard Charles Leclerc in FP2.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Azerbaijan Grand Prix Practice Day Baku, Azerbaijan

“I just can’t really tell you where it’s 1.6 seconds or 1.3 seconds, whatever,” Hamilton said.

” It is far. I think there are a lot of them on the straights.

A look at the data and on-board footage from the respective Hamilton/Leclerc laps confirms this, but also highlights Mercedes’ other limitations at the moment.

It is in the second half of the lap that the loss of straight line speed is most evident.

The stark example is from the final corner to the finish line, where Hamilton loses around four-tenths of a second – although he also loses three-tenths of a second from exiting the castle section to the tight 16 left at the end. of the middle sector.

This explains almost half of the deficit and the rest seems to be due to the lack of grip that both drivers acknowledged.

Hamilton was already a few tenths behind after the first corners alone and suffered bigger losses in Turn 4 (where he had to correct a small slide on the exit), the sequence of Turn 5-6 and the last real corner where some mid-steer the understeer kicked in.

Otherwise, the Ferrari looks much more responsive. It revs better and revs up better, supporting the idea that the Mercedes simply lacks grip.

There are corners where the Mercedes appears equal to the Ferrari, mainly the slower corners on the track – turn 7, the castle section following it and turn 16.

The fact that these came later in the lap could support Russell’s theory that “50%” of Mercedes’ problems were related to getting the tires in the correct window. If it took too long to get the tires up to temperature, that could potentially explain the relative improvement apparent in the second half of Hamilton’s lap.

Motor racing Formula 1 World Championship Azerbaijan Grand Prix preparation day Baku, Azerbaijan

The precise cause will determine what progress can be made with the “fundamental” changes that Shovlin said the team needs.

If increased ride height is needed to improve ride quality which hurts Mercedes on the straights, that’s a concern as it will likely increase drag and also reduce cornering performance as the car will roll higher.

Reducing aggressive rebounds could buy back more time on the straights than it costs with increased drag.

However, this could further aggravate cornering issues – especially as the lack of grip there and known ride quality issues after Monaco suggest that the W13 is likely to be performing at a height of driving higher than desirable.

“It was a tough day,” Russell said. “We weren’t as competitive as we would have liked. Again, tricky track to get the tires in the right window.

“You see with a number of drivers, their laps come right at the end of a race when Ferrari and Red Bull seem to be able to light it up.

“But they inherently have a faster car than ours and we are doing everything we can to try and catch up.”

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