It would be wrong to say Mercedes has eradicated its porpoising issues based on the Spanish Grand Prix, according to the team’s motorsport strategy director James Vowles.
Mercedes looked at its most competitive by far in Barcelona, with George Russell qualifying fourth and finishing third, while Lewis Hamilton recovered from a first lap puncture to finish fifth and was regularly the fastest car on track. Despite positive comments from both drivers and team principal Toto Wolff, Vowles warns against expecting Mercedes to have such an encouraging performance each week.
“We’ve had one race out of six where the car has been well-behaved,” Vowles said. “It was a car that really was a proper racing car for once. We could set it up, we could tune it, we could play around with the settings and it would respond in a way that was predictable and the same couldn’t be said for the car that we had for the first five races of the season.
“However, we have to temper our expectations. It’s one track, and a track that has suited our car for many years prior to this one. There is a lot for us to understand and learn. I think it would be wrong to say that the porpoising issue has disappeared. You still see it on our competitors, and I am sure there will be elements of it coming back again as we build on our understanding and the foundations that we laid down in Barcelona.
“What I can say is we made a definitive step in our understanding and the deployment of what we put on track. And we can build on that, and the same could not be said about the first five races with the car that we had there. We will move forward from where we are now, but it will be a journey. It is not going to happen overnight.
“And we’ve got difficult tracks coming up, we’ve got Monaco and Baku which will throw up their own challenges and surprises. The difference now though is we have a car that is within touching distance of the front, and a car that we can fight for a championship with.”
Wolff admitted this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix might not be such a competitive one for Mercedes given its performance in the low-speed final sector in Spain.
“I wouldn’t say (I’m optimistic), because we have been particularly off pace this weekend in the slow corners in the last sector, due to overheating,” Wolff said. “So that might be different in Monaco. But Monaco in the past wasn’t our most happy place. But it’d be curious to see where we are this weekend.
“We still struggle with warm-up a little bit. So my expectations for Monaco are lower than on any other circuit. I’m not sure I can explain scientifically why that is. But it’s going to be another learning point, at least, to bring us back into the game.”