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Formula 1 Belgian GP

Mercedes switching F1 car development focus to pure performance

Mercedes Formula 1 trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin has said the Brackley team is switching its focus from problem solving to finding performance.

A key part of its strategy with next year’s W15 is to design a car that has plenty of scope for development and allows the team to make the in-season leap that McLaren has made this year.

From the introduction of the current regulations last year Mercedes had to concentrate on firefighting and addressing the bouncing issue that was so prevalent in 2022.

This year the team used a lot of resources changing its aerodynamic concept early in the season, and then to subsequently understand how to get the best out of the revised car.

Shovlin has said the team hopes that in 2024 it can concentrate on finding performance, and at the same time not be as hemmed in on development options by early design choices, as was the case with its previous sidepod concept.

“It is fair to say that with these regulations and the way the cars work, we have been very focused on fixing problems,” he said in a team video. “It might be bouncing or a balance issue that you are trying to solve.

“But as we are making progress on that, the actual way that you develop a car is you are more looking for just performance.

“So you get less focused on a big list of things that you need to solve, and more just on where we can bring the lap time.

“The focus for next year's car is that we make sure the key decisions give us a lot of scope for development. You can see this year just how much performance all the teams are bringing as they go through the year, and you need to be able to bring that performance.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“But as I said, we are a little bit less focused on solving this list of issues and just looking at how can we make a good step in lap time, and hopefully a step that is going to get us back to regular pole positions and being able to challenge for wins.”

Shovlin also revealed more detail on why Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were compromised early in the Hungarian race.

Both drivers were told to lift and coast to manage temperatures after the team discovered that the level of cooling it had allowed for was not sufficient.

“We had one issue where the way that we predicted the cooling had meant that we were undercooled, so we are investigating why that wasn’t in line with expectation,” said Shovlin. “The consequence was that we had to ask the drivers to do lift and coast.

“This is where before they get to the end of the straight, they come off the throttle and the first bit of the entry phase to the corner they are doing without brakes, then they pick up the brakes later.

“This helps cool the power unit, but it costs lap time. It also meant that neither driver could really attack the cars ahead of them.”

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With the temperature issue under control both drivers were able to pick up their pace in the latter stages and both gained ground, with Hamilton finishing fourth and Russell sixth.

“Later in the race, we got into clearer air, so things were in a better window in terms of the temperatures,” said Shovlin.

“We could let them attack the cars ahead and we were able to show better pace. It was also that the degradation of the tyres was good.

“The ends of our stints were looking better than the early parts of the stints. You could see that trend and decent performance, particularly for George, at the end of that first stint where he was going very well.”

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