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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says that the Silver Arrows’ improved performance in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix has come about because the team “understands” its porpoising issue and has resolved it.
The eight-time constructors’ champions had been suffering from intense bouncing at high speeds on the straights with its W13 car all season long, which was hampering its speed and meant drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were way off the pace of frontrunners Ferrari and Red Bull.
But the problem has been dramatically decreased this weekend after the team arrived at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona with a raft of upgrades to their machinery, and the changes have led to a much improved level of performance.
Russell was able to qualify fourth, ahead of the Red Bull of Sergio Perez, with Hamilton behind in sixth. Both drivers have qualified outside of the top ten this year, and so competing with the faster Red Bulls and Ferraris is a “solid step”, according to Wolff.
“We have done a solid step,” the Austrian told Sky Sports F1. “Where we slotted in today is the best we could have expected. My belief is that we have a race car more than a qualifying car, but Red Bull also have the tendency of being stronger in the race. Lewis says that the car finally drivers like a Formula 1 car, and this is the best feedback you can get from a driver.
“We know how to unlock more performance and we’re not yet there, the other teams have been able to develop their car while we have been in a pause to understand the bouncing. We understand the bouncing now, it’s all an aerodynamic effect created from the floor swinging. The team have discovered [the solution] and that’s great.”
“We were [still] six tenths to Leclerc [at the end of qualifying]. This is miles away still in qualifying terms. As the regulations stay the same for next year, at some point you have to ask what is good on the car and what is not. Before you can decide that you need to [fully] understand [the whole car].”
Wolff also praised driver Russell, who has impressed since stepping up from backmarker team Williams at the begging of this year.
“You can see the next generation coming up, and the way George has integrated in the team and is learning from Lewis is great. I couldn’t hope for a better driver pairing, and the pace is there.”