Toto Wolff reveals a major Mercedes problem hampering the progress of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell

Mercedes is far from the pace at the start of the 2022 Formula 1 season. (Photo by Joe Portlock – Formula 1 / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Mercedes team manager Toto Wolff has revealed that drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have to lift the accelerator on straight pieces in their car, such is the intensity of the jump they are exposed to at high speeds.

The Silver Arrows have won eight consecutive constructors’ championships since 2014, dominating the F1 with the fastest car in every single season of the hybrid era. But 2022 has brought with it the biggest regulatory change of a generation in Formula 1, and so far this season Mercedes is far away from rivals Ferrari and Red Bull.

F1 has returned to ground effect car design for 2022 for the first time since the 1980s in an attempt to allow cars to follow each other more closely and for drivers to drive harder against each other. So far, the changes seem to have the desired effect, with Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen engaging in exciting tactical battles for the lead in all three of the preliminary rounds.

But the aerodynamic shift has resulted in a peculiar peculiarity known as the ‘guinea pig’, which sees cars bouncing violently up and down when driving at high speeds due to the air balance under the floor shifting back and forth. While some teams have managed to solve or mitigate the problem, Mercedes’ W13 car suffers worse than most and is simply slower through turns than Ferrari and Red Bull’s machinery.

The team ranks second in both constructors ‘and drivers’ positions, as things stand, with Russell’s early leader Leclerc’s closest challenger, but that’s due to Red Bull’s unreliability, which has seen them suffer three retirements in the first three rounds of the season. Now Wolff says the drivers are not able to drive flat on the straight pieces due to guinea pigs, which costs them considerable lap time.

“Lewis’ guinea pigs are actually not the worst,” the Austrian said after first training at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. ‘We made George jump so much that he broke the stay on the floor. We have to lift straight. I have never experienced jumping like this in my life. It is impassable. ‘

Mercedes was over five seconds from Ferrari’s pace under wet conditions on the Imola track in the first training session, and Wolff believes the Scuderias are able to handle their jumping problems much better.

“Their guinea pigs look a little different than ours,” Wolff said of Ferrari. ‘Our frequency looks higher and the biggest difference is that when they press the brake, the car stabilizes and ours does not.’

Despite Mercedes’ problems, Wolff still believes the team has the potential pace in the car to win the World Championship.

“I think if we can unleash the potential of this car, then we can fight for the championship,” he added. ‘But when you see the holes, as we have seen today [the target of winning the title] is totally unrealistic. But we just keep going and trying to understand [the porpoising issues]. ‘

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