The Brackley team is currently engaged in an intense duel with Red Bull for the Formula 1 world titles, but experienced problems with the car especially at the start of this season. This was especially evident during the winter tests where the new aerodynamic rules were put into practice for the first time. The changes to the floor had a significant impact on the balance of the Mercedes car. In a semi-exclusive interview with, among others, Motorsport.com Lewis Hamilton spoke about the difficulties he and his team had this year with tuning the car. He cited the situation in 2017, when Mercedes boss Toto Wolff compared that year’s car to a diva.
“I am more committed this year than ever before,” said Hamilton of the progress he has made this year. “I am generally satisfied with my effort and my performance. But I do note that, and that’s just a fact, the car is very difficult to adjust this season. I don’t remember if it was last year or the year before, but Toto called the car a diva. This is some kind of monstrous diva. We have regularly had more difficulties getting the car into the car, partly due to the shorter training time window to get. If that doesn’t work, you’ll soon be on your ceiling. You can’t always maximize the tuning if there isn’t enough time, it’s been really hard to get it right all the time. In Brazil I had the car exactly where I wanted it, and we hit the nail on the head there. But that may have happened once or twice before this season.”
Simulator not a panacea
The difficult situation Mercedes found themselves in, especially at the start of this season, was caused by the adjusted rules around the floor. They had more influence on cars built according to the low-rake concept. According to the reigning world champion, his team was also not helped by the development limitations. “We knew we would lose a lot of downforce and once we knew exactly how much that was, the character of the car changed,” said Hamilton. “We worked for years to get the car to a certain point and it was a nightmare that it was all gone, that you can’t adjust it with the options you normally have. It is what it is, we tried to work smart and deal with the downforce we had less. There are many elements that have made it more difficult this year. This has been a difficult car to tune and I spent a lot of time in the simulator. But even those sim days don’t always get you where you need to be because there are so many variables where the wind isn’t quite right, where the grip level can be off. You can’t always get the right information from the simulator either. You have to be careful with the data you see and the decisions you make. It has been like a rollercoaster ride in that regard.”