This post was contributed by Henk Ormel, who has been a much beloved member of our community at Wheel Sports and an incredibly insightful eye for feedback on technical matters.
There is a lot of rumors around the change of concept by Mercedes. The Imola GP should be the time for the first big upgrade of the current design. After The Bahrain GP the word was suddenly a change in concept should be introduced during the Silverstone GP. This meant the Imola upgrade would be mainly postponed. Now the word is, a new front suspension, new sidepods, new floor at Imola. Unfortunately due to excessive rainfall in the region Emila Romanga the race was canceled. Our thoughts go to the victims and the ones left behind.
The messages out off Mercedes were at best confusing, as they are for a long time.
A little timeline.
At the start of the 2022, after the Bahrain GP it was claimed by Mercedes they had to run the car below its designed ride height to create a somewhat decent amount of downforce. Unfortunately they entered with the lowering of the car the porpoising area. The porpoising and the extra amount of rear wing they had to put on the car made it unpredictable and slow. This does make sense in my brain.
Suddenly the media started spreading the ‘news’ the Mercedes was running above its designed ride height and therefore its rear suspension geometry wasn’t suited for its actual ride height. The Merc didn’t ride too high, everyone could see it was almost running below the track. The suspension design indeed didn’t suit the actual ride height, the car was running lower than designed.
In Baku (bumpy street track) Mercedes sat-up their car so low and stiff the drivers were stumbling out off the cars in front of the camera’s after the GP. This of course did raise the question off drivers long term health regarding the porpoising phenomenon. Mercedes pushed for active suspension by the pledge of George Russell, also chairman of the GPDA.
The FIA decided in all their wisdom to listen to Mercedes and make some rule changes mid season regarding the maximum allowable vertical oscillating g-forces and tighter regulations on wear on skid blocks and the plank. This regulation did hit particularly hard at Ferrari and Mercedes. For the upcoming season it was decided to raise the floor edge with 15 mm and raise the diffuser throat also.
Before the start of the 2023 the media and Mercedes itself were loudly presenting high hopes for the upcoming season. Mercedes did claim they had solved the porpoising issue and yes the porpoising was gone. Unfortunately for Mercedes the FIA had solved the problem for them and regarding their own releases they still don’t understand the issue.
The more voluminous side pods were a step forward but not enough. The car is still running as low as is legally permitted, still is draggy and still has the tendency to porpoise. The forward seating position were Hamilton is complaining about, is only 10 cm further forward than the Red Bull has. On a wheelbase of about 3 meters those 10 cm are neglectable.
The new front suspension is about the internal parts. To build the anti-dive into it, Mercedes needs a new chassis. To shift from a push rod to a pull rod front suspension, Mercedes
needs a new chassis. To shift in the rear from a pull rod suspension to a push rod suspension, Mercedes needs a new gearbox casing. A new chassis and a new gearbox casing are both mandatory crash tested. The funding to do so lacks in the costcap era.
My trust in a redesigned W14 is not that high. Maybe in Monaco we’ll see what’s true or not.