No silver bullet on Mercedes says Wolff as Red Bull call attention to ride height movement

2021 United States Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has insisted his team has no “silver bullet” on its car after Red Bull drew attention to a potential ride height innovation on the W12.

Wolff’s opposite number at Red Bull, Christian Horner, told Sky Mercedes’ recent gains in straight-line speed may have arisen from “the system that they’re activating now”.

“They were dropping the rear ride height significantly in Turkey,” Horner added. He previously claimed Mercedes had an advantage of up to 20kph at Istanbul Park.

However Wolff denied any one system on the car is responsible for its improved performance in recent races.

“We recognise absolutely that this is a sport where competitors will try to find out, always, whether there’s some kind of silver bullet,” said Wolff. “My experience is that there’s no such thing, it’s all small gains, marginal gains that are being added and then bring performance.

“We’re trying to really comprehend our car better and add performance and lap time without listening too much to the noise.”

Mercedes has made gradual progress since introducing new parts on its car at the British Grand Prix, according to Wolff.

“Obviously we’ve introduced an upgrade at Silverstone and since then have comprehended every race a little bit better how to extract the maximum performance. And now since Sochi, then in Turkey and also here, it proves to be definitely the right parts.”

Mercedes were almost a second quicker than Red Bull in the first practice session for this weekend’s race at the Circuit of the Americas. “What we have been able to understand is how to hit the sweet spot of the car in terms of the set-up,” said Wolff.

“Today when you look at the lap time it’s a straight-line gain. I think we found the right compromise between drag and downforce, and on the other side we were very quick through the fastest corners which is good, and equal to Red Bull on the slow corners, so overall the car is much better altogether.”

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Ride height movement on Bottas’ Mercedes in Turkey

Horner called attention to the “significant” movement in the rear ride height of the Mercedes at the Turkish Grand Prix. Teams have used similar techniques before to stall the diffusers in their cars, reducing the drag they produce, and improving their cars’ straight-line speed. Mercedes may have found a way to achieve this with their W12.

At the beginning of the straight the car sits high on its suspension

As Bottas gains speed the car suddenly drops lower

The car remains low to the braking zone for the next corner

As the car slows it quickly rises again

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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29 comments on “No silver bullet on Mercedes says Wolff as Red Bull call attention to ride height movement”

  1. Interesting.

    1. @jerejj not really, considering that onboard footage from every other single car in the field shows similar behaviour. You can go and find footage from Red Bull’s car throughout this season and see the same thing happen, you only need to go back just one race to Turkey to see Ferrari’s car doing the same thing. Why is having the rear suspension compress under aerodynamic load suddenly such a shocking revelation to so many here, including even the site owners?

      From what Gary Anderson has been suggesting, this really seems to be little more than the geometry of the mechanical linkages in the rear suspension and basic suspension kinematics. It’s not some sort of super secret illegal device, nor some sort of grand conspiracy – it really seems to be more that Horner’s basically complaining that the suspension geometry that Mercedes have adopted allows them to do this better than Red Bull can, mainly because Red Bull chose to prioritise moving the position of the rear wishbones to focus on improving airflow over the top of the floor of the car, thus trading off one set of compromises against another.

      1. https://www.google.ca/amp/s/amp.formula1.com/en/latest/article.tech-tuesday-is-mercedes-improved-straight-line-pace-down-to-a-power.5IEJZMbr3KqKOzHts8Apdf.html

        I’m visiting family this weekend so wasn’t able to hear all the commentary but I did catch them on Sky suggesting that their speed advantage on straights may not be as achievable at all tracks, as per this article.

        1. @robbie firstly, your link appears to be broken, as it does not lead to the article you want it to lead to.

          Secondly, some of those whom Sky were interviewing were suggesting that Sky really seems to be trying to manufacture a story here. It’s like the story that was spun around Mercedes’s plenum, which the Italian press has since debunked – they’ve been looking at the GPS traces, for example, and found no evidence for the claims that Red Bull had been making about Mercedes powered cars accelerating unusually quickly (not to mention the claims around the way the system worked didn’t make sense when you looked at what the regulations state).

          1. anon Oh I’m not sure why you can’t open it, as I just clicked on it and it was fine. Anyway, easily found as it is an article on F1’s own site by Mark Hughes and Giorgio Piola from October 19 titled “Is Mercedes straight-line speed down to some clever ride-height engineering?” It talks about diffuser stall. I don’t see this as Sky manufacturing a story.

    2. Unfortunately these pictures convey nothing, there is no observable change, the rear dropping does not change the position of the rear wing relative to the roll hoop, and that is why we can’t see a thing from the onboards. the small variations visible are the same across all other f1 cars. The real change can only bee seen from the outside.
      In turkey I wrote that mercedes were running a lot of rear camber, apparently that is a by product of the rear height device, the rear compresses to the ground even on high speed corners, from the outside it looks like an overloaded white van, massive camber and scrapping its bottom.
      Definitely they have introduced this at Silverstone.
      It does not look like the goal is just to stall the diffuser, looks like, as was the case with rb rear wing, that the goal is to get the rear wing down, getting it away from the air and twisting it in order to have less frontal area, minimizing the downforce the rear wing produces, meanwhile the rear is stuck to the ground, frankly it does not look like a new thing to merc, looks like all the other dominant mercedes.

  2. Bruh these teams never stop to find ways. I’d be surprised if next year, nobody has some sort of trick to exploit from the new regulations.

    1. Obviously. See the last 75 years of F1

  3. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    22nd October 2021, 20:23

    No bendy wings but bendy cars. Wonder if the FIA will also investigate this, although I doubt it, seeing as it’s not Mercedes crying about it….

    1. It’s just downforce Barry. All cars are the same.

    2. The FIA will investigate if someone protests it, that’s the way this works. Red Bull were asked directly on Sky about this today and it didn’t sound like they had any objections or intentions to protest.

  4. That’s not a silver bullet, no, that’s a silver bullet dripped in garlic extract blessed by a priest.

    Unless it breaches the regs and Redbull can emulate it quickly, I think this is game over for the championship surely.

    1. F1s version of the hole shot device. Shame it doesn’t work so well in high rake cars.

    2. Horner is barking up the wrong tree if he thinks the FIA wouldn change tests based on a rival team complaining of something moving out of ideal parameters on a rival car on a tv camera. If a car passes the tests they would never change tests to uphold the rivals complaint. Horner must be crazy.

  5. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    22nd October 2021, 20:43

    At this point I would just wish for Mercedes/Wolff/Hamilton to just put a sock in it instead of blatant lie. People have eyes too ya’know?

    1. You just know Horner and Newey are busy cheating like crazy trying to copy MB’s clever design, while at the same they’ve already got a much faster car than MB.

      1. Only you can see a much faster car than merc after turkey…

    2. Where is this ‘blatent’ lie of which you speak @barryfromdownunder ? Can you let us know.

      1. He doesn’t know, it’s his emotions speaking, he’s sick because Mercedes might make this year count.

      2. @john-h

        Where is this ‘blatent’ lie of which you speak @barryfromdownunder ? Can you let us know.

        Mercedes never admit when they’re faster, and cry a lot when finding themselves slightly behind or even in equal terms with Red Bull.

  6. Mercedes had DAS now they’ve got DAT ASS

  7. I have an opinion
    22nd October 2021, 23:02

    With increasing speed and downforce, it is normal for the suspension to compress and the ride height to decrease. For a simple spring this follows a linear relationship ie Hooke’s Law. Non-linear springs are no mystery. But does the Mercedes’ ride height remain low for a period after the speed decreases? If so, they may have found a way to introduce hysteresis into the suspension. This development may have been made for the ’22 car with its stiffer tyres but still beneficial on the current car.

    1. I don’t think so. An F1 car will brake from top speed in 75m, that’s pretty much when the car pops up just like any car, Red Bull included.
      Now the non-linear relationship between height and downforce can be changed depending on the suspension geometry as you mention, which is what I suspect is going on here, kind of like a sigmoid curve shape.

  8. Where are those who insisted that Red Bull wound wlak away with it early? Burying their head on sand, it must be.

    1. I appreciate English may not be your first language but not alot you say makes sense. Just some feedback.

  9. Waiting for Toto to say that their engineers changed the oil which affected the ride height.

  10. Looks like a holeshot/ride height device seen also at MotoGP bikes, manually activated on the straight with mechanical actuators, if it’s legal then it’s a no brainer everyone should have them

    1. @reza-pratama24 indeed, old tech in motogp. It is not automatic in motogp because that would be illegal. Can’t see it being manual in f1 as that would make it a moveable aero device and thus illegal.

  11. He says no silver bullet and then they went from barn door wing slower on the straight, to suddenly barn door wing, faster on the straight.

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