Andrew Shovlin has revealed that the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team did not think their W13 was in ‘a bad place’ heading into the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season, and that the ‘porpoising’ was not as a significant problem as it turned out to be.
Shovlin, the Track Engineering Director at Mercedes, said the team knew that they were not the quickest outfit heading into the season, but they were able to be drawn into a large development programme to try and reduce the effect of the car bouncing down the straights, which came as a result of their interpretation of the new aerodynamic regulations.
Mercedes were unsure what was causing the porpoising, so the early races were a struggle for them as they fell off the pace and away from the front of the field, the place where they had traditionally been since the beginning of the turbo hybrid era in 2014. The lowest point perhaps came at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix where Lewis Hamilton was eliminated in Q1 in Qualifying.
And it was not until they brought updates to the car for the Spanish Grand Prix that they begun to understand the problem, although some of the porpoising remained evident on the W13 right through the 2022 season.
“At Silverstone [for the shakedown], we were in the middle of a storm – it was about the worst conditions we’ve ever run a car in,” said Shovlin to Motorsport.com. “That certainly doesn’t allow for very clear and sensible shakedown running for the filming day.
“But that car – so the car that we then took to Barcelona – yes, you could get porpoising and we were running the car very high anyway on ride heights given the weather and given that it was the first running of the car.
“We did lower the ride heights to more normal levels at Silverstone and saw that you could get this phenomenon. But, we didn’t really know much about it and what was causing it.
“So, going to Barcelona was therefore a case of understanding: ‘How can we run the car? What are the problems? How can you mitigate what was happening with the porpoising?’ At the time about the best thing you could do was just lift the car off the ground, give up performance and manage it that way.
“That car was defined much, much earlier in the development programme than the race one package. But the issue… at the time in Barcelona, we thought: ‘We’re not the quickest, but we don’t think we we’re in a bad place’.
“Because we were expecting to add good performance with that Bahrain package. The issue was that when we fitted it, the porpoising was a whole other level. Most of the performance that we intended to add didn’t materialise because we had to lift the car even further and at that point you couldn’t get rid of the bouncing.”