Mark Hughes says the Spanish GP will be “crucially important” for Mercedes

© Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG

Sky Sports F1’s Mark Hughes provides an analysis of why the Spanish Grand Prix will be “crucially important” for Mercedes, and why Toto Wolff might have some “tough choices to make”.

In his Sky Sports F1 column, respected F1 journalist Mark Hughes analysed Mercedes’ current situation as the team approaches this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

The Briton highlighted the importance of Mercedes returning to the track on which they tested their first more conventional version of the W13, before they introduced the current ‘zero-sidepod’ concept.

“The Spanish Grand Prix this weekend will be a crucially important event for Mercedes,” Hughes wrote.

“The opportunity to compare the performance of the troubled current W13 with the original, quite different, car which tested here during the pre-season will be invaluable – and any lessons learned from that comparison may then have an impact not just on what Mercedes does for the remainder of this season, but also the concept of its 2023 car.

“Porpoising has been the number one issue with the car and although all teams have suffered with this phenomenon to a certain extent, it is the relatively low-speed range and severity with which it is triggered which has so limited the Mercedes.

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“Pre-season simulation of the car with the ‘zero sidepods’ update suggested a big performance gain over the standard sidepod spec which tested in Spain.

“That simulation continues to suggest that if the car could be run at the lower ride height for which it’s designed, the performance would be spectacular enough to allow the car to dominate even Red Bull and Ferrari.

“The question of course is whether it is even feasible to run the car at those ride heights upon which such performance is predicated.

“Is this just the physical world imposing its realities upon an invalid set of assumptions in simulation? Or is there a way of controlling the porpoising in a way which would allow access to all that theoretical performance?

“Mercedes were hoping that the data from the last set of updates at Miami would reveal a direction to follow in controlling that underlying problem.

“But the immediate post-race picture after a race in which the car was as far off the front-running pace as ever did not look promising in that regard.

“The hope was that a deep dive into the data once back at base might be more revealing.

“The hope now is that this weekend’s data comparison with the original spec car at the same track may also help in understanding what is triggering the extent of the problem.

“One of the theories is that the big expanse of exposed floor created by the extremely narrow sidepods means the floor cannot be made stiff enough to prevent it flexing enough to stall the underbody airflow.

“It could be that the underfloor design itself is too aerodynamically powerful for what is structurally possible with the floor. The answer could be a combination of those and other factors.

“But if there is no sign of progress in Barcelona this weekend, Toto Wolff knows he has some tough choices to make,” Hughes concluded.

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