Within the hours after Mercedes lastly took its first pole of the 2022 Components 1 season on the Hungarian Grand Prix, the group’s trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin mirrored on the behaviour of the troubled W13 design in a method that sounded slightly just like the eight-time constructors’ champion squad had been bewitched by its personal unpredictable creation.
“This automotive has been significantly annoying in the best way it provides you glimpses of efficiency and what is likely to be, to a degree the place it’s very troublesome for us simply to surrender on it,” mentioned Shovlin.
“It sucks you in a bit, from an engineering perspective.”
It was simple to consider the moments of teased behavioural breakthrough he was referring to. That nice Friday in Miami that preceded a weekend of extra of the identical drudgery skilled within the earlier rounds. The sturdy Barcelona and Silverstone race tempo that wasn’t replicated subsequent day trip.
Even Mercedes’ back-to-back double podiums with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in France and Hungary had such parts. All of the hope that upgrades and circuit traits may make Paul Ricard Mercedes’ weekend of redemption was initially dashed by poor observe and qualifying performances that baffled the group, earlier than race circumstances turned issues again in its favour. The genuinely spectacular Hungary weekend started with an terrible Friday of head-scratching.
That inconsistency has two predominant penalties for Mercedes as issues stand in the summertime break.
Firstly, It means there’s an excessive amount of promise within the W13 for Mercedes to jot down it off and throw all sources right into a headstart on a 2023 design extra in line with the 2022 championship frontrunners’ concepts. It’s due to this fact obtained extra upgrades coming, beginning instantly after the hole at Spa.
It additionally means all of the elation at combating for victory in Hungary is tempered by Mercedes having little clue whether or not that efficiency is repeatable or was simply the W13 being on the optimistic aspect of capricious for as soon as.
Requested by The Race following the Hungarian GP whether or not it actually had been a stronger Sunday efficiency than different races or only a consequence of Mercedes truly managing to qualify one in all its automobiles up entrance, group boss Toto Wolff was all warning. Maybe understandably so given efficiency swings elsewhere that weekend, equivalent to Ferrari wanting on Friday prefer it was on the right track for its most dominant win of 2022 but then nosediving proper off the rostrum in cooler climate on Sunday. And contemplating Hamilton’s race to second needed to be a restoration drive from solely qualifying seventh on account of a Q3 DRS drawback.
“We have to be cautious that it’s not particular to Budapest and that we simply landed within the excellent window, additionally as a result of the opposite groups – Ferrari particularly – complained in regards to the tyre not being the place it ought to have been,” Wolff mentioned.
“So my private opinion is we’re nonetheless missing to the frontrunners.
“You’ve seen that [Charles] Leclerc on the fitting tyre continues to be a dominant power. However a minimum of we’re in the identical race.
“And George, a improbable weekend for him with the pole place and with the technique he did the utmost. And with Lewis, I feel with out us screwing up with the DRS yesterday he would have raced Max [Verstappen] for the victory. However would doesn’t depend on this sport so it wasn’t the very fact. I’m simply sorry that we weren’t in a position to be in that place.”
Pushed on whether or not he suspected the Hungary tempo was down to trace situations suiting Mercedes’ set-up within the second or might truly be a efficiency development for the remainder of 2022, Wolff was maybe much more pessimistic.
“I don’t know, I don’t need to say now abruptly we’re proper bang into the sport and we will win races, as a result of I don’t suppose that’s the case,” he mentioned.
“I feel we landed it properly on Saturday and we’re reaping the outcomes immediately however I don’t suppose we’re shut sufficient to Ferrari and Purple Bull to actually combat them as of but.”
However one theme that did emerge from all the things Mercedes’ management mentioned throughout Hungary and afterwards was that the group is lastly now constructing a dependable knowledge financial institution in regards to the automotive’s habits and is getting someplace with understanding it, so won’t be getting continually caught off-guard for much longer.
“The struggling of Friday was simply large, we didn’t actually know which course to have a look at,” mentioned Wolff.
“Perhaps getting it so fallacious on Friday was useful in getting it virtually utterly proper on Sunday.
“Now we have a variety of knowledge to have a look at, a variety of positiveness from the final weekend in France and right here and to construct on within the second half of the season.”
As Shovlin put it, even in a profitable 12 months a prime F1 group is getting higher with each bit of data it beneficial properties. Mercedes’ unsuccessful 12 months is instructing it much more.
“Each race we’re studying at, and on the finish of the 12 months we kind of have a tendency to jot down all of it down in a single place, and it’s spectacular that even after 20 races you’re nonetheless discovering out issues,” he mentioned, earlier than including a extra cautious postscript on the matter of whether or not Hungaroring learnings would truly be relevant at tracks equivalent to Spa and Monza.
“I’m positive that there’ll be bits that we will take, however for those who have a look at it statistically, are we going to abruptly be touchdown it in that window at each monitor? That is likely to be a tall order.”
However Wolff hinted at one particular space the place Russell’s Hungary pole may’ve been proof of Mercedes making an vital discovery.
It had been weaker in qualifying than the races by way of the 12 months up to now, and had at all times argued that any change to enhance one-lap tempo was going to have damaging penalties for race tempo.
Russell’s fall from first to 3rd on Hungary race day appeared extra a results of the vagaries of race methods than proof that bettering tyre warm-up for qualifying was going to be a race-pace-wrecking change.
“Perhaps by way of what we did to the edges and by way of the aggressiveness of the set-up, now we have been too on the conservative aspect for some time, with out with the ability to say extra,” Wolff mused when it was identified that Russell getting the tyres as much as temperature shortly in qualifying hadn’t come at a tyre degradation value within the race.
Shovlin known as the France/Hungary podiums, pole and race-leading Hungary efficiency “issues that we might’ve solely dreamed of earlier within the 12 months” and added within the following week’s post-race debrief video that the shape development now appeared strong sufficient to begin taking real satisfaction and confidence from when racing resumes post-summer.
“The automotive tempo was additionally excellent, and it’s at all times good to have a great race earlier than you go into that interval of vacation,” Shovlin added.
“Probably the most satisfying factor although is to see the place the automotive is by way of tempo now in qualifying and within the race.
“We had a variety of floor to make up from the beginning of the 12 months, we’ve been working actually arduous making an attempt to convey bits to each race and it’s actually satisfying now to see that we’re racing with the Ferraris, with the Purple Bulls proper to the entrance.”
He’s now billing the upgrades coming to the Belgian GP as simply extra steps to shut an already-small hole, slightly than needing to be massive, transformative and confusion-eradicating.
“We are attempting to convey some efficiency to Spa that may hopefully shut that hole, we haven’t obtained far to go now,” mentioned Shovlin.
“However we’ll preserve growing the automotive for a short time now.
“We’re fairly excited although, the previous couple of races have been probably the most enjoyable we’ve had all 12 months and we’re simply hoping that we will take that further step as a result of we positively need to be successful races within the close to future, so we’re working arduous to attempt to obtain that.”
It’d take a number of races of consistency and some improve packages having tangible fast outcomes for Mercedes to cease feeling aggravated at its 2022 automotive. However the prospect of getting a much less irritating relationship with it – and feeling like all the hassle put into growing it has a pay-off – now appears sensible.