Mercedes: We pushed the package and drivers too far in Baku

Mercedes pushed Lewis Hamilton’s car setup too far in Baku last weekend and cannot cause him such pain again, the Formula 1 team’s head of strategy said on Wednesday.

Britain’s seven-time World Champion suffered severe back pain wrestling with his bouncing car in Baku and said it had been his most painful race.

Team boss Toto Wolff raised some concern about Hamilton being able to race in Canada this weekend but strategy boss James Vowles confirmed in a debrief that the driver would compete in Montreal.

“He is an elite athlete that will push the bounds of endurance of himself and the car and that’s what Formula 1 drivers do, that’s what makes them exceptional,” said Vowles.

“On this occasion though, we pushed the package and our drivers too far, we are putting them into significant discomfort and we simply can’t do that again.

“We have a responsibility now to make sure that this doesn’t carry on,” he added, pointing out other drivers were also suffering.

Hamilton finished fourth in Baku, with Russell third after both Ferrari drivers retired.

Formula 1 introduced a major rule revamp this season and the changes have caused cars to ‘porpoise’ — leaping up and down on the straights as the aerodynamic ground effect is suddenly gained and lost.

There is “porpoising”, bouncing, and bottoming

Vowles explained that there was a difference between “porpoising”, bouncing and bottoming.

“I’m confident we’ve made a step forward in terms of “porpoising” but we very clearly have bouncing and to the outside it looks almost identical, but there is a subtle difference between the two,” he declared.

Vowles said progress in resolving the “porpoising” at the Spanish Grand Prix had allowed the team to drop the ride height and run the car lower to the ground — which had revealed another problem.

The car was now “hitting the deck” quite hard with the bottoming creating the bouncing evident in Baku.

Vowles said Montreal was not going to be substantially different, commenting: “I think we will still have a package that isn’t at the front on merit.

“Red Bull and Ferrari will still be the benchmark that we have to compare ourselves to. I think, though, that the large gap that you saw in qualifying in Baku perhaps won’t be that big in Montreal,” he added.

Previewing the Canadian Grand Prix this weekend, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: “Baku was a tricky weekend for us, particularly with the bouncing issues, but we really maximised the opportunities that came our way and left Azerbaijan with a solid collection of points.

Mercedes benefitted from Ferrari misfortunes in Baku

“We benefited from the misfortune of others, but reliability is an important factor in Formula 1 and there’s no shortage of hard work at Brackley and Brixworth behind getting both cars to the finish line.

“We once again found ourselves clear of the midfield in terms of pace, but a chunk behind the top two teams,” he admitted. “We’re working flat out to close that gap. But with an underperforming package, I loved seeing the fight in the team to pull together and get us the best result possible with the tools at hand.

“That spirit will bring us back competing at the front,” the Austrian insisted.

“Having not been to Montreal since 2019, we’re all excited to return. It’s a wonderful city and the Canadian fans are very passionate about F1.

“The track is a unique challenge, with chicanes separated by long straights. We’re looking forward to seeing what the weekend has in store and hope we can take a step forward,” Wolff concluded. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Additional reporting by Grandprix247)