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Merc mystified by low race pace

2013-05-14 07:42

MERC AND THE PACE RACE: McLaren Mercedes drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez at Catalunya for the 2013 F1 GP with 1-2 on the grid - but when it came to the race... a flop. Image: AFP


BARCELONA, Spain - Mercedes has urged its many Formula 1 technical boffins to "think outside the box" and consider the unconsidered after the 2013 Spanish GP left the team baffled by its cars' lack of race pace.

Despite scorching to their third pole in a row - Nico Rosberg’s second in a row - Mercedes flopped when it mattered most at the Catalunya circuit near Barcelona. Lewis Hamilton went from second to 12th in what he said was his worst race for a very long time. Rosberg finished sixth.

How to manage and extract performance from the Pirelli tyres is the problem and Mercedes, with its stellar lsenior technical figures, plan to throw all its brain power into finding an answer.


Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff told reporters after emerging from a two-hour post-race technical debrief at the circuit: "What you can say is that the car is a quick car.

“This is not about a car or a team struggling with pace, a car in which you end up 15th on Saturday and then 12th or 16th on Sunday. It is a car that is tremendously fast on the Saturday and then on Sunday we are not able to manage the car with the tyres.

"One could say 'Did the others go even much more conservative in terms of race set-up?' I don't think so. It's something else and I think it requires out-of-the-box thinking.

"It's about everybody in the team sticking their heads together and saying ‘let's analyse what we do from a Saturday to a Sunday. Is there anything we need to be looking at which we didn't look at until now?’"

Barcelona, like Bahrain before it, is punishing for even the hardest tyres and it would be comforting for Mercedes to think that the circuit characteristics did not suit them and that things will improve elsewhere. However, the next circuit on the calendar is Monaco, a tight and twisty circuit without high energy corners, which must be treated in isolation.


The risk is that if single lap speed is compromised in exchange for better race pace, Mercedes could lose out in Monaco where pole position carries a premium and overtaking is extremely difficult.

Wolff said he was "pretty sure" any solution would cost the team in qualifying pace. He added that it would be looking at matters through rose-tinted glasses to think the problems were more related to the track than the car.

"It's not an inherent car problem. I think it's probably something about processes," he declared. "The question is: 'Is there anything we can be looking at which is similar to previous years?’. Is it that this car is being made for a drag race instead of for a grand prix?’ A German journalist said that," he smiled.

"No. I don't think so. My opinion is it's something else. "As I am on the pessimistic side, I don't believe in magic or a golden key but it could be. The car is good. It's just changing the approach or looking at these processes for racing."


Wolff said Mercedes, which had problems particularly with rear tyres in 2012, had done a good long run in final practice and set the car up for qualifying and the race accordingly but it had not worked.

The priority now was to analyse everything, to look at how the tyres were treated, how they were heated up and how that heat is retained.

"It's how you drive it, slow or fast in the first couple of laps. How you build it up. We’re looking at our competitors and what you can see is that clearly some cars are having an easier life with the tyres.”

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