Mark Hughes explores Mercedes’ “puzzling” Miami performance drop

© Jiri Krenek for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

Official F1 website Special Contributor Mark Hughes takes a look at Mercedes’ Miami performance drop, which is “so puzzling, even Mercedes doesn’t understand it”.

Mercedes showed promise during the Miami Grand Prix free practice sessions, with George Russell even managing to top FP2.

“Unfortunately, things changed on Saturday and Mercedes dropped back to their usual 2022 performance level. In his Monday Debrief column, Mark Hughes takes a look at what happened.

“As Max Verstappen romped to victory over Charles Leclerc, Mercedes delivered quite the most puzzling performance of anyone over the Miami Grand Prix weekend,” Hughes wrote.

“So puzzling, even Mercedes doesn’t understand it. George Russell headed the practice times on Friday and on the long runs was third-quickest, with an average only a couple of tenths shy of Leclerc’s Ferrari.

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“With a raft of aerodynamic upgrades on the car, it seemed as though speed which had only ever been seen in simulation was becoming a reality for the first time.”

However, on Saturday things changes.

“Lewis Hamilton and Russell proceeded to qualify only sixth and 12th respectively,” Hughes continued.

“The fastest Mercedes qualifying time was around 0.8s adrift of Leclerc’s pole time. In the race, before the advent of the late Safety Car, Hamilton was a distant sixth, trailing 46s behind Verstappen’s Red Bull.

“The first sign that Friday had flattered to deceive came in the FP3 session of Saturday morning where Hamilton and Russell could record only the 15th and 17th fastest times respectively.

“The car’s serious porpoising issues had returned with a vengeance and its previous chassis balance had disappeared.

“The team, feeling encouraged on Friday, had lowered the car’s ride height for FP3 in an attempt at optimising downforce.

“The apparently disastrous effect of this change led the team to return the car to its Friday settings for qualifying and the race. Yet the porpoising and ill balance remained.

“In the meantime, between Friday and qualifying the track grip had ramped up considerably and other teams had found as much as 1s per lap.

“That improvement was just not accessible to the Mercedes. The team can see the symptoms of the problem but the root cause is proving frustratingly elusive.

“The ambitions of Hamilton and Russell were thus restricted on race day and they ended up racing only with each other,” the Briton concluded.

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