The German manufacturer has endured a challenging time since the switch to ground-effect cars at the start of the 2022 campaign.
Last year’s W13 was blighted by porpoising, and the squad battled with a too-small ride height operating window for where its car produced downforce, which effectively forced it to run very close to the ground.
This had a double whammy effect of risking bouncing as the downforce levels increased but also required the car to be run with stiff suspension that exposed it to problems with bumpy tracks and kerbs.
For this year’s W14, the team aimed at delivering downforce over a much wider range of ride heights, which it felt would be helped by the FIA lifting the edge of the floors by 15mm.
Mercedes, however, erred on the side of caution when it came to their approach to ride height. Instead of running close to the ground like their competitors, they ended up running at a higher level, resulting in a missed opportunity for better performance.
The extremely complicated nature of the current generation of cars, which are reliant on the harnessing of vortices underneath the floor, means that making a radical change of ride height means an almost total rethink of aero maps – something that is not really possible mid-season.
Instead, Mercedes believes that this matter can only be tackled during the winter while focusing on its new vehicle.
Mike Elliott, Technology Director, Mercedes-AMG, in a Press Conference
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
In 2022, experiencing a shortage and in contrast, an excess this year, the chief technical officer, Mike Elliott, is confident that the W15 2024 vehicle has successfully resolved these issues.
Asked by Motorsport.com if he felt Mercedes had pinpointed the sweet spot, Elliott said: “The real difficulty is, if you look at the aero testing restrictions, you’ve got so limited a number of runs, and you’ve got to pick a direction and go for it.
“If you go down the route of saying I want to develop a car for high ride height or low ride height, and I want to be able to cover all my bases, then suddenly you’d be doing like three runs a week on each one and going nowhere.
“You need to choose a path and follow it. As you gain knowledge, you can adjust that path and make slight changes. I believe we have positioned ourselves appropriately for the winter.”
Mercedes is currently prioritizing the development of its 2024 car, but Elliott assures that this will not hinder their efforts to enhance the W14 as much as possible.
“I believe there is more knowledge to gain, and we still have the opportunity to compete for P2 in the championship,” he expressed. “We will continue to make progress, but our main priority at the moment is the development of next year’s vehicle.”
Elliott believed that working on the development of this year’s car would not hinder any progress for the upcoming season, despite the anticipation of a significantly altered design.
“Our main objective is to win world championships,” he stated. “That is our primary focus, and we will dedicate our efforts towards achieving that goal.”
When attempting to create a completely new vehicle and making significant structural modifications, it becomes challenging to maintain progress consistently. Therefore, some of the testing we are conducting for this year’s car is primarily aimed at gaining valuable knowledge and experience on the track, without negatively impacting the development of next year’s car.