Mike Elliott at the 2023 Bahrain GP Friday Press Conference

© Daimler AG

Mercedes’ Technical Director Mike Elliott attended the Bahrain Grand Prix Friday Press Conference. Here is the full transcript.

Q: What were main changes over the winter, how difficult were they to overcome, have you regained any lost performance?

Mike ELLIOTT: Probably a similar story, really. I think, just working out where you want to optimise the car around the new regulations.

Q: And what about the change in the tyre compounds, for example? Has that complicated things?

ME: Everything changes. I mean, ultimately, you’re just trying to optimise around what you’ve got. So I think there are subtle changes in the way the car balance works with the new tyres, but nothing groundbreaking.

Q: Mike, let’s come to you next. What should we make of Mercedes so far? Can you just sum up the pre-season test and how things are going here? Is the car performing in line with expectations?

ME: It was interesting listening to Pat, it doesn’t sound very dissimilar. I think if you look at where we were last year, we were really struggling with bouncing. I think over the winter, we’ve got on top of a lot of the issues we had in the car and we’ve come here feeling like we’ve got a better package to work with. I think when you look at the three days of winter testing we’ve done, I don’t think we feel we’ve actually got the best out of the car yet. I think we had a fairly poor day on day two, but we’re still learning and I think we learned a lot between the test and coming here. So we’re in a similar position this morning to see C2s, trying to do some more testing. And then we’ll see what that turns into.

Q: What can you tell us about that day two at testing? What were the issues? Were you surprised by them?

ME: I think this is a difficult track to test at. I mean, we only do three days, as Pat was saying, and when you look at how the track condition varies, sort of hour to hour almost, with wind, and also with the tyre temperatures, because of the track temperatures, it’s very difficult to make comparisons and to know exactly where you are. I think sometimes a cold day in some of the places we’ve been previously, it’s actually in some ways easier to make that comparison. So I think on Tuesday, we found ourselves slightly lost in the afternoon and then had a reliability issue that curtailed our running.

Q: Now, a lot is made of your size zero sidepods, if we call them that. How integral are they to this car and could you change your side pods easily? And if you did, how would that affect the overall sort of concept?

ME: I think I’ve sat here before and talked about the same thing. I think, for us, it’s how we developed the car last year. I think we’ve done a lot of work looking at other types of solutions. And we keep coming back to this one as being the one that favours us. Is that the right long term solution? I guess we’re going to find out. As it happens, I think Toto has already said, we’ve got a different body work coming. It won’t be the same as other people’s and it won’t be the same as what we’ve got. But it’ll be different.

Q: OK, just a quick word on the drivers feedback on this car. What are they saying?

ME: I guess, fitting with the conversation we just had, I think, we’ve probably not quite got the balance window where we want it. That the car is not quite handling they want it to yet. So that’s our job to go and fix up.

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Q: (Adam Cooper – Motorsport.com) We’re seeing a lot more unpainted carbon on cars for obvious reasons. Can you talk a bit more about that quest for weight-saving? Are you working with your paint suppliers? Is there a constant discussion with the marketing guys over liveries and so on? And secondly, some people say there’s a tangible cost benefit, because you don’t have to send sandblasted parts back to Europe for repainting between flyaway races. Is that Is that really the case? Is it useful?

ME: Yeah, I think we’re probably into the small numbers now. I think when you look at the weight, these cars, in terms of paint, it’s not huge, but every little bit counts. And if you can make a small advantage there, then you do it. As for what they’ll look like and how they develop once they’ve been sandblasted as you put, it might actually be hard to deal with a pure carbon than it will be the painted but we’ll see.

Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsportmagazin.com) Mike, last year, you already mentioned the bouncing that you had, probably until Austin. Toto said it was like an onion,  it was masking a lot of problems you also had in the car and once you pulled off a layer you saw another problem. What is the problem now that you don’t have the bouncing and the porpoising anymore? Is it just missing downforce, the weakness of the car?

ME: The first question is, Is there a problem? I think we won’t really know that till we get to qualifying for definite. I think if you look at what we’ve tried to do over the winter, we’ve tried to develop power issues we had in the car and I think, by and large, we’ve done that. But ultimately this is a relative game so until we know exactly where all the teams pan out, we’ll probably have a good idea after qualifying, at least for this circuit. Then we go from there.

Q: Mike, Dan said that Aston Martin largely met the aggressive targets they set. Same at Mercedes?

ME: Yeah. To be honest, yes, exactly. I think in terms of where we’re trying to get to with weight, what we’re trying to do with aero, we were sort of hitting the targets we’d set ourselves. We’ll find out whether they were enough.

Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) I know you’re not looking too much at the other team but that is really a game that a lot of us in the media particularly like to play, try to rank where people are.  How much attention do you guys pay to each other? Do you have an idea in your head of who is where, apart from certain teams maybe far out in front? And when do you finally get the answer to that,  is that only during qualifying you’ll really know for sure or can you even gain something from FP2 later today?

ME: While you can do various statistical analysis, looking at people’s runs, trying to work out what fuel load you think they might be on, it’s a fairly big window you’re operating with so until you actually get to see the car in qualifying and then in proper race pace, you don’t really know.  You have a reasonable idea but you don’t really know.

Q: (Filip Cleeren – Motorsport.com) Mike, the team has already said that you’re going to bring an upgraded side pod soon enough.  Can you shed some light on when that might be and whether that’s part of just a small tweak or if there’s like a fundamental upgrade there?

ME: It’s just part of the normal development.  We have got a very different sidepod that’s coming – I say a very different –  a different sidepod that’s coming. I think Toto said that in the press, but it takes time to bring that.  It takes time to make the bits, it takes time to change the bits that go underneath the body work for it to fit so we’ll bring it as soon as we can.

Q: (Adam Cooper – Motorsport.com) McLaren are running a digital logo panel. Is that something you’ve looked into at all? Do you think it could be an interesting bit of technology with obvious benefits for sponsors?

ME: It’s probably not my area of expertise but I think anything that we can do to better engage with the fans, better engage with people on TV is a good thing.

Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsport-magazin.com) Mike, do you think there could be a point of no return, where you’re locked into an aerodynamic concept because of all the constraints with cost cap, with ATRs, If you want to change the concept completely, you have to start from zero.

ME: I think like I said before, until we know where we are, you can’t make that assessment. I think the ATR is definitely a big restriction for teams like us.  We are a long way short of  where people further back on the grid were and it makes it a difficult decision if you do want to do something very different. But I think you’ve just got to take a long term view to that and say, if you were on the wrong path, what would you do? And you obviously need to address that but let’s see where we are in qualifying and in the race this weekend. It doesn’t feel like we’re anywhere near trying to make that sort of decision.

Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race)  Mike,  the drivers have talked quite optimistically about having faith in this car, the development platform, the fact that it can get to where the team needs to be, but that did seem to be a little bit of an acceptance that you’re not starting exactly where you’d want to be right at the very front. How confident are you with what you’ve seen in the data simulations that whenever you’re going to get upgrades and be able to really push this package, it’ll be able to make up that deficit?  Because if the Red Bull has an advantage, for example, there’s no reason to think that will get slower, they’ll still be pushing. So where does that confidence lie?

ME: I guess you come to the same point, which is knowing exactly where we are, and where we need to move on from there. I think there’s always lots of developments in the factory that’s not here on the car because it takes time to bring it and we’re doing that big chunk of work and I think you just have to look honestly at where you are in the lap time. So I think we’ll see where we are tomorrow see where we are on Sunday, probably need, as Pat said, a race or two  to really know where that sort of pans out and I think we’ve said, if you look at the winter testing times and you try and correct for fuel,  weight and engine modes and all the rest of the things you can correct for, there’s such a wide band, it’s really difficult to know where we are. And so let’s just see where we are. You can’t take your medicine here until you know what ailments you’re trying to fix so let’s just see where we’re at.

Source: FIA.com

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