Pit-lane pictures in Spain reveal that Toto Wolff and co have adopted a specific design approach used by Red Bull and Ferrari at the start of the season. The Silver Arrows are believed to view the upcoming Spanish Grand Prix as their ‘last chance’ to get a result with their current car design, which has left them off the pace this year.
Mercedes’ performance issues, most notably porpoising, have left them unable to compete with Ferrari and Red Bull. Indeed, the Silver Arrows’ no-sidepod approach is dramatically different to that of their competitors, and so far it has not worked in their favour.
Approaching the season’s sixth Grand Prix, Mercedes are at risk of falling too far behind to maintain any hope of winning another Constructors’ Championship. Last year’s triumph was their eighth in a row, but prospects look to be fading this time around having reportedly torn through the majority of their mid-season development budget.
Sky Sports snapped pictures of the new-look W13 rolling into Catalonia on Thursday. Small winglets underneath the car were a notable new addition in an effort to improve airflow, having followed a similar design to that of Ferrari and Red Bull at the start of the season.
Changes have also been made to the floor, which George Russell and Lewis Hamilton will hope holds the key to a porpoising solution. The duo have been seen bouncing along in each of the five races thus far, which has denied them the pace to work through the pack.
Mercedes have seemingly poured everything into the Spanish Grand Prix, which comes straight after a conveniently-timed filming day at Circuit Paul Ricard. Teams are allowed two such days per year, and it has allowed them to trial the changes over 17 laps of action.
The success or failure of the design tweaks could make or break Mercedes’ season, as Wolff suggests that the team will know, one way or another, whether to persevere with the current design or start from scratch. Going for the latter would be a painful admission of defeat for the Silver Arrows, who hoped that their distinct design approach would power them to a ninth consecutive title.
The team’s issues have provided one of this season’s big storylines, but the individual struggle within the Mercedes camp is another. Hamilton has ground to make up and scores to settle having fallen 23 points behind newcomer Russell after five races, but the former is seemingly relaxed heading back to a familiar stomping ground.
“When you go to places like Barcelona, you have so much data from decades of driving there,” Hamilton told the Petronas Motorsports YouTube channel.
“You go there and it’s much more relaxed because we know more about it and it’s easy to prepare for.”