Shovlin explains how Mercedes was surprised by ‘porpoising’

© Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin says during the Barcelona pre-season test the team didn’t think their car was “in a bad place”, but that changed in Bahrain.

Mercedes struggled with ‘porpoising’ for most of 2022, and while the team was aware of the issue as early as the first test in Barcelona, it became apparent at the second test in Bahrain that the issue will not be easy to solve.

At first Mercedes thought their ‘zero sidepod’ solution that was introduced in Bahrain, would “add good performance”, but it only exacerbated the porpoising issue.

“At Silverstone [for the W13 shakedown], we were in the middle of a storm,” Shovlin told Autosport.

“It was about the worst conditions we’ve ever run a car in. 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.

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“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’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,” the Briton concluded.

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