Mercedes believe they are now in a position to fight for the world championship after making a significant breakthrough with their 2022 F1 car at the Spanish Grand Prix.
The reigning world champions endured a miserable opening five races of the season and picked up just two podium finishes as they battled to understand the porpoising phenomenon that was masking the true potential of their 2022 car.
But an upgrade package – featuring a redesigned floor – introduced in Spain helped Mercedes eliminate most of the high-speed bouncing, which in turn led to their most competitive showing of the season as George Russell took third and Lewis Hamilton recovered from being 30 seconds adrift of the pack after a first lap puncture to finish fifth.
The performance at Barcelona has provided Mercedes with huge encouragement and hope of salvaging their season.
“We’ve had one race out of six where the car has been well-behaved,” said Mercedes’ F1 strategy director James Vowles. “It was a car that was really a proper racing car for once.
“We could set it up, we could tune it, we could play around with the settings and it would respond in a way that was predictable. And the same couldn’t be said for the car that we had in the first five races of the season.
“However, we have to temper our expectations. It’s one track, a track that has suited our car for many years prior to this one. There’s a lot for us to understand and learn.
“What I can say is we’ve made a definite step, a step in our understanding and the deployment of what we put on track. And we can build on that. We will move forward from where we are now, but it will be a journey, it’s not going to happen overnight.
“And we’ve got difficult tracks coming up, we’ve got Monaco and Baku which will throw up their own challenges and surprises.
“The difference now though is, we have a car that’s within touching distance of the front and a car that we can fight for a championship with.”
Mercedes not certain they have cured porpoising
Despite enjoying a clear improvement in Spain, Mercedes remain cautious that their porpoising problem may not be permanently fixed.
After being hampered by severe bouncing across the opening four events, Mercedes appeared to make slight progress in Miami, before their Barcelona upgrade package seemed to almost completely eradicate the issue.
Both drivers reported their cars were still porpoising in high-speed corners but were buoyed by the team’s step forward.
However, Vowles stressed there are no guarantees the issue won’t resurface at other circuits.
“I think it would be wrong to say that the porpoising issue has disappeared,” he warned.
“I think you still see it on our competitors and I am sure there will be elements of it coming back again as we build on our understanding and the foundations that we laid down in Barcelona.”
Monaco expectations ‘lower than any other circuit’
Monaco hasn’t been a particularly happy hunting ground for Mercedes in recent years, with the German manufacturer’s car often struggling around Monte Carlo’s famous tight and twisty streets.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff suspects Monaco could be more of a struggle for his team based on the W13’s performance in slow-speed corners in Spain.
Asked if he is optimistic of another good result at the Principality, Wolff replied: “I wouldn’t say so, because we have been particularly off-pace this weekend in the slow corners in the last sector, due to overheating.
“That might be different in Monaco, but Monaco in the past wasn’t our most happy place. Maybe because the car was the size of an elephant.
“But I’d be curious to see where we are this weekend. We still struggle with warm up a little bit, so my expectations for Monaco are lower than on any other circuit.
“I’m not sure I can explain scientifically why that is. But it’s going to be another learning point, at least to bring us back into the game.”