Mercedes’ straight-line speed deficit due to drag levels, not power unit – Wolff

2022 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Mercedes believes its straight-line speed deficit to Ferrari and Red Bull in Bahrain was due to differences in drag levels between their cars.

While the team’s cars finished third and fourth in Bahrain, aided by the late retirements of both Red Bulls, the Mercedes engine customers suffered a tough start to the season. The six cars of Aston Martin, McLaren and Williams were the last to cross the line in the grand prix.

That prompted speculation the performance of Mercedes’ engine has fallen behind F1’s manufacturers. Lewis Hamilton admitted after the race he had concerns about their rivals’ top speed advantage after finishing behind the Ferrari drivers on Sunday.

“We’ve learned a lot from this week,” he said. “Their straight-line speed, as well as the Bulls were very quick in a straight line, and their performance through corners is quite a bit different to us.”

However team principal Toto Wolff indicated the difference in straight-line speed could be down to the configuration of their car. Mercedes have encountered difficulties with porpoising which have forced them to make set-up compromises.

Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Bahrain International Circuit, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix in pictures
“We need to analyse the drag levels first before we really make a judgement of whether we we’re lacking power,” said Wolff. “I don’t think that there’s big differences between the power units.

“But clearly Ferrari made a big step forward because last year they weren’t totally competitive. If you look again at the singular event in Bahrain and it’s like they’ve out-performed everyone else.”

Wolff jokingly suggested extreme measures will be needed for this weekend’s race at Jeddah Corniche Circuit, the quickest track on the calendar.

“It’s easy to shed drag off a car because you simply take a chainsaw and cut the rear wing to bits,” he said. “So that’s what we will be doing for Jeddah.”

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2022 Bahrain Grand Prix

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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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62 comments on “Mercedes’ straight-line speed deficit due to drag levels, not power unit – Wolff”

  1. Do us a favour, don’t.

  2. Seann Sheriland
    22nd March 2022, 13:14

    Comparing those 2 wings. The Merc’s seem quite a bit bigger. More drag.

    1. Mercedes is just closer to the camera on that photo. Look at the tires, they appear bigger as well.

  3. It’s obvious Ferrari power has made a huge leap simply due to HAAS and Alfa making the gains they did. Or are we supposed to believe they’ve made leaps and bounds in terms of aero? It’s laughable.

    Like Ferrari said two years ago, if you are down on power it’s hard to get the aero and grip to where they should be in comparison to others. Sounds to me that’s exactly where the other Merc powered cars are.

    I bet the wild Merc concept with its side wings is performing incredibly and making up the difference.

    1. My thought yesterday.

    2. It’s all down to aero and Ferrari’s greater knowledge and aero time

      1. Well, maybe they are finally following the advice of Enzo…

        Aerodynamics Are For People Who Can’t Build Engines

    3. If you listen to steiner, Haas tried the vertical side pot concept early in their development. They dropped it and choose the wide side pot concept.
      So, it’s not sure if the spec b car really is rosettas stone. It shows mercede is way off the development path compared with others. If they succeed in solving the problems the next problem will pop up. The limited spending.

      1. @erikje just because a team dropped a concept earlier in their development path doesn’t mean another team is behind because they’re using the same concept. Mercedes have already assessed and tested a wide-sidepod solution.

        But any excuse to put Mercedes down, eh?

        1. But any excuse to put Mercedes down, eh?

          @gardenfella72 he’s a troll and that is his MO. Not to mention the constant comments about Mercedes and their excessive spending, as if Red Bull and Ferrari have not spent hundreds of millions in an effort to win championships.

          1. Erikje is actually a she. It’s a fairly common girl’s name in the Netherlands. And she really has the hots for Verstappen**.

          2. This explain a lot ! Definitely a “stand by your man” feel to the commentary.

          3. It’s obvious you do not get the point. That’s fine but if it’s over your head do not attack the bearer of bad news.

          4. @greenflag ahahah, that makes total sense… no wonder she has a thing for moaning and moaners :)

        2. Just like high rake vs low rake – Mercedes made low rake work and they were pretty much the only ones that did.

        3. If you have problems with a critical note about Mercedes, ts better to ignore my writing. That could not be so hard to do.
          Constant attacking people with a different opinion is more something for Russia.
          More to the point. Haas invested a lot of time in their solution. The sacrificed a year for it.
          Mercedes showed a dual development path and still having some serious issues with porpoising. Apart from the extreme drag to keep te car under control they lost a lot of time developing different solutions. It’s a very experienced team, but even if they solve this problem the next one (a financial and tunnel use related) shows up.

          1. Oh @erikje I’d love to ignore your writing but it’s everywhere and you push your anti-Mercedes Anti-Hamilton opinion into every single article, whether it’s relevant to the discussion or not.

            It’s interesting that you find someone challenging your behaviour as attacking you.

          2. can you please create an account in motorsport page and argue with people there, this site is more suited for discussing stuff and not arguing, it’s really bringing negative vibes to this environment.

        4. @gardenfella72
          “Constant attacking people with a different opinion is more something for Russia.” you know right? constantly attacking this lady’s feelings is hurtful. only she can attack and try to insult people and try to annoy all with her moanings about max. obviously max can feel her too so he moans back all race long

          1. Hey Moaning One, is that you?

    4. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
      22nd March 2022, 14:33

      @skipgamer
      My thoughts are more a long the lines of the engine packaging changes Merc did to their engine for this season to fit “their” car design philosophy (that no other merc team has gone with). More cooling taking place higher which in turn generates a higher CG (center of gravity). When you consider the teams have to run suspension stiffer and run ride heights higher than they prefer (stop gap for now to manage the porpoising issue). This exacerbates and handcuffs the teams in how they manage and control weight transfer in twisty sections of track. Stiffer suspension with a high CG will result in a car that lacks mechanical grip (“clumsy” handling) and induces sliding and dominoes into increase tire wear and induces more heat. I think it has less to do with aero and more to do with mechanical grip… I mean sector 2 was the worst sector for all Merc powered cars.

      1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
        22nd March 2022, 14:42

        and build on that thought…. with the lack of mechanical grip Merc powered cars require a little more wing downforce to compensate for the lack of mechanical grip. It’s a tough balancing act the teams have to contend with and there is no win solution until they develop a real solution, via upgrade, to this lack of grip. So it comes across as a lack of power or poor aero philosophy which I don’t believe is the case for most here.

      2. Thanks for your comment :)
        Pretty intresting and instructive.

    5. Suffering Williams Fan
      22nd March 2022, 17:54

      I think it was Scarbs who commented pre-season that the Merc (and Williams) sidepod concepts might have some issues with drag because of a lack of shielding from the front tyre wake (or something to that effect).

  4. It is not down to our power unit but our opponents’…

  5. Indeed it is funny how all Mercedes teams have huge rear wings.

    Maybe the new fuel mixed up the engine order a bit?

  6. Why would 8/8 Mercedes-powered cars run with cripplingly high drag levels?

    1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
      22nd March 2022, 14:23

      @proesterchen
      Didn’t Ferrari run a relatively high drag setup for the race as well? RBR I think was the only ones that ran low drag aero (not sure about the sister team). RBR was the fastest in sector 1 by a long shot all weekend while Ferrari was the strongest in sector 2.

  7. Is the little fender thing over the front wheels mandated by the regulations? Every car on the grid seems to have it.

    As for Mercedes, whatever their issues are, they will probably solve them and have a rocket for the 2nd half of the season.

    1. Yes, it’s designed to reduce dirty air generated from the wheels.

    2. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
      22nd March 2022, 14:05

      The aero wheel “covers” and the hubs are mandated.

      I believe Merc will catch back up but I would be cautious to think they will be competing for wins every race when they do. Both Ferrari and RBR are ahead by a good margin atm but they too will be developing/improving as the season progresses. Merc has to at minimum find .7 seconds which is a lot.

      1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
        22nd March 2022, 14:06

        correction… wheel “fenders”

    3. They are mud guards. Just like on my old push bike and used to keep water off me when it was wet. Mine were better, I had reflector mounted at the back.

  8. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    22nd March 2022, 14:24

    The Mercs themselves were about 1 second a lap slower. With average lap times of around 1:38 for the front runners that is about 1% of performance MB need to make. Is that such a huge margin in F1 at this time of a new development cycle?

    1. These aren’t normal times. Expect it to be reduced pretty quickly

    2. in a “normal” season, no. This season, anything can happen, I think all teams are still trying to understand the correct balance of their cars.
      This things are so complex and they had so little time to test

  9. it’s hard to think that a almost no-sidepod car is struggling with drag

    1. @stigf1l the rear wing has a big role to play in the amount of drag a car has.

      The no-sidepod solution might be saving drag around the sidepod area only to create more of it further rearwards

    2. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
      22nd March 2022, 15:41

      @stigf1l
      Self induced, they are. They are running higher downforce (higher aero drag setup via wings) to compensate for the lack of mechanical grip. It’s about balancing car performance over an entire lap. Since they “narrowed” the sidepods, most of their cooling is happing higher in the engine area (hence, the wider and bigger engine cover) which raises the CG. That is compromised even more when you look at how teams are mitigating the porpoising via stiffer suspension and higher ride heights.

    3. charles mapani
      22nd March 2022, 16:02

      That l can’t understand.

    4. Suffering Williams Fan
      22nd March 2022, 17:59

      I posted a comment above that was probably better placed here – pre-season Scarbs (I think) commented on the interaction between the front tyre wake and the (lack of) sidepods and suggested the concept might actually have some drag issues.

  10. In Jeddah, it being a high speed circuit, we will see all teams running a lower drag aero setup. Mercedes will still be in the same position in that case. I doubt that their engineers did not think to start with a lower drag setup and only add wing as necessary.

    1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
      22nd March 2022, 15:46

      That will only be determined based on lap optimization. They may sacrifice the first sector as most of the track is high speed so they maybe fine running smaller wings this go around. We’ll see! I think all Merc powered cars fundamental issue is mechanical grip (not aero or PU related).

  11. Dave (@davewillisporter)
    22nd March 2022, 16:27

    So, a detail here is Toto stated Merc were overwinged due to a lack of parts.
    Whether you believe that or not is another matter!

    Aston Martin stated that they needed to focus on the car not the PU as Mercedes had proved you can run at the front with it.
    Merc’s problems seem to be that they can’t run the car low enough for their concept to work. When they raise the car to avoid porpoising, they lose aero and mechanical grip. They are losing time into corners under braking because as George pointed out, the car bounces and the back wheels skip. They are slower round the corner as a result and aren’t generating as much corner exit downforce, causing the car to squirm under acceleration, slowing their initial straight line speed. If you add too much wing to that, there’s your deficit at the end of the straight. High speed braking with the back wheels skipping and you complete the vicious circle.
    Where the PU is concerned, the Aston and Williams are “meh” cars. McLaren and Mercedes were both pretty fast in Barcelona. Both have encountered aero problems since then with McLaren having to run their car sub optimal in Bahrain to get the brake cooling they need, and Mercedes having the porpoising become worse, not better.
    Ferrari certainly have produced a vastly improved PU. How could they not? The 2020, 2021 PU was dire! Their battery upgrade late ’21 made a significant difference and they’ve obviously built on that for this year. I hardly think Honda / RB have made the same step. Theirs is more an aero advantage. It’s likely Newey’s previous experience in ground effect helped there, and Ferrari have brought a well developed car on day one. Mercedes are playing catch up.
    I would imagine by three or four races in, the gaps at the front will have closed, and McLaren will be nowhere near the back!
    Pu issue put to bed methinks!

    1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      22nd March 2022, 16:32

      Although there is a chance Mercedes HPP are running conservatively to prove out their re-worked concept reliably. That’s what Honda did in ’21, all the way to Barcelona if memory serves.

      1. @davewillisporter

        Although there is a chance Mercedes HPP are running conservatively to prove out their re-worked concept reliably.

        Compared to Leclerc’s pole lap, Hamilton was matching his speed though with higher RPMs (something around 400 rpm). I think Mercedes were running their PU aggressively at least compared to Ferrari.

    2. @davewillisporter

      The 2020, 2021 PU was dire!

      I was sure the general consensus was that as punishment for ‘allegedly’ violating the fuel flow regulations in 2019, they had to detune the ICE or run with less fuel than rivals as their penance for (at least) 2020, with the engine barely changing in 2021 (apart from the ES upgrade late in the season) due to the focus being placed on the aero changes..

  12. The logic behind Toto’s comments is sound. To resolve the porpoising, they raise the ride height, which costs the downforce, so they add wing, which costs top speed.

    Wether it’s true or not is another matter.

    1. Very much agree with your thoughts.

      Looking at the telemetry between LEC and HAM during qualifying, we can see HAM was faster thru the corners and loses the advantage almost immediately upon exit. But they have very similar top speed (which tends to tell us the power : drag ratio), does this point to lack of traction at exit of corner or lower deployment of MGU-K during initial phase of acceleration or a too draggy L/D optimisation or PU lacking power?

  13. I’m not convinced by Toto’s explanation. The top speed figures of the Mercedes were surprisingly close to the Ferrari, who also ran a lot of downforce. Yet, the Mercedes still lost a lot of time on acceleration compared to the Ferrari (about 0.4-0.5 sec in quali and even more in the race).
    I understand Mercedes chose to run a bigger rear wing to compensate for the lost downforce, due to the increase in ride height in order to get the porpoising under control. If so, why were they chewing up their rear tyres so quickly? Wouldn’t the bigger wing help them in that regard?!

    1. The only thing Mercedes can do to fix the porpoising and get more grip, is a new floor.
      Which they tried, but it failed.
      Adding wing might help in sector 2 but my guess is that the car was still sliding a lot, hence the tire deg.

      Ferrari built their aero (sidepods) with the knowledge they had a strong PU, else there would be too much drag.
      Their acceleration is sublime, but I wonder what they will do at speed tracks. Less wing sure, becasue you don’t want to be sitting duck at every straight.

      1. The Ferrari actually isn’t draggy at all. If you look at the CFD analysis on f1technical.net on the Ferrari, in particular from the top view, you see that the sidepods, while initially wide, end very ubruptly to create a lot of free area before the diffuser. According to this analysis the Ferrari design is 11% more aero efficient (produces less drag) than the FIA’s base model. Ferrari’s head of chassis department, Enrico Cardile, also said that they evaluated a similar design to Mercedes’, but they abandoned it, because it was about 7% less efficient according to their analysis.

        Ferrari just put on as much downforce as possible at Bahrain, to keep the tyres better in shape and because the engineers knew they could get away with it.
        I don’t think Ferrari will be in trouble on faster circuits as Jeddah, Spa or Monza. Their car produces enough downforce to be able to trim some wing off the car when needed. Anyway, we’ll see how they’ll do in that respect at Jeddah this weekend.

        1. i hope this time their leap in performance advantage is real design and not some kind of trick/cheat like before when they suddenly became a rocket ship. also hope there is no more behind the scenes/under the table agreements between fia and teams.

          i would enjoy watching ferrari on top with lec. also expect/hope merc to be sorting their issues within 3-4 races. otherwise max will be causing all the entertainments with his driving antics… this guy when frustrated, only knows one thing, drive people off the road kamikaze style in a myway or noway

          1. I get what you mean, Max used to tangle with Vettel, Raikkonen, Leclerc, Hamilton and even Ricciardo.
            With someone like Max you can’t just yield, Leclerc knows this well enough.
            There was some history between them in karting, where Max pushed him off the track.
            As a revenge Leclerc pushed Max into a puddle of water. Funny video on YT btw.
            But they know eachother.

          2. oh moaning one, please, why’d you have to bring the level down – again? Can’t we have a interesting discussion about different techical aspects without degrading it by you constantly moaning about drivers’ personalities?

  14. Having earned my aeronautical engineering degree on YT comments sections I think they need something like an f duct passive pressure switch to disrupt the periodicity of the “bounce.” Something to intercept the stall by bleeding off df at a certain speed before the car gets too low and it goes into a cycle.

    1. You’re missing the effect of the bumps in the road that is an alternate way of triggering the effect.

  15. So it is the power unit, based on earlier remarks of Wolff vs reality

  16. That’s why all the other Mercedes powered cars finished in the back.

  17. I also heard comments from the broadcast about the tractability of the Ferrari power vs. the Merc unit. If there is more power where it is needed, ultimate power isn’t important.

    1. My guess is that this is where Ferrari are gaining – the power unit simply pulls cleaner out of the corners, making it less likely to break traction and getting the car to the speed the aero works much faster.

      Of course, we don’t know any of this – but if true, Merc may be able to help their cause with a software update to change the deployment curve of the battery.

      It still could be partly drag, though

  18. Think the engine is fine. But will be confirmed once the other problems are fixed.

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