Mercedes still puzzled by handling woes during F1 testing

Mercedes says it is still investigating why its car was not performing as hoped during F1 testing

Valtteri Bottas, 2021 F1 Testing

Mercedes's new W12 did not look as good as the team had hoped for during testing

Antonin Vincent / DPPI

Mercedes did not start the 2021 season as it might have hoped after a difficult three days of testing and it still doesn’t know why its new F1 car was handling so poorly.

On all three days of the test, the rear end of the W12 looked unhappy through certain corners, with both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas deeming the car snappy and nervous.

Hamilton suffered two spins during the three days as well as a handful of near-spins as well, most notably beaching his car in the gravel after losing the rear at Turn 13.

In a testing recap video, Mercedes strategy director James Vowels and trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin admitted the team is still unsure as to why the car was behaving so poorly.

“We’re fortunate enough to have a lot of footage available to us as you are home as well,” Vowels explained. “It was pretty evident from that that the car was handling poorly, and conversely, the Red Bull looked what we call ‘planted’ but it was a very stable car especially to the last sector of the lap. I think that’s a fair observation, it was visible to the outside and I’d say the lap times mirrored that as well.

“It’s also fair to say that we don’t have answers as we’re sat here now, we’re just 24 hours after the end of the test, [there are] huge amounts of data available to us and now a long journey ahead to try and understand what was causing that.”

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Shovlin added that the conditions made things even more tricky to decipher, explaining that the changing wind directions, in particular, made for a difficult read into how the car was behaving and the reasons behind it.

“The wind made it tricky when the wind is behind the car you lose a lot of downforce because effectively the airspeed is reduced. So, some corners were, where the wind was behind, it was prone to doing that.

“Then also the tires are quite easy to overheat on that circuit. And if you start sliding you tend to lose grip in it and it gets worse. So there’s a few problems now. Importantly, we could see that some of our competitors weren’t struggling in the same way as us.

“So we need to put quite a focus on understanding why the rear end was a bit weak, how we can get it more stable and predictable enough that works going on now.

“Hopefully when we get to the race weekend it won’t be so difficult for the drivers because they were having to work pretty hard to do the lap times that they were doing.”

Mercedes ended testing fifth-quickest on the final day and over a second down on Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who topped the timing sheets.

After the test, Hamilton suggested that the new W12 was lacking across the board rather than in one particular area.