Mercedes have admitted they are aware of a fundamental flaw with the gearbox on its W11, which was the cause of Sunday’s reliability worries in Austria.
Mercedes feared both its cars would suffer imminent failures during the Austrian Grand Prix, and called on race leader Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton to back off and avoid the kerbs, in the hope of prolonging the life of its gearboxes.
Speaking to the F1 Nation podcast, Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin admitted the issues aren’t likely to be a one-off and could appear at any moment during a session or race and is a result of a build-up of electrical noise.
“On Friday we saw that Valtteri had an issue at the end of one of the sessions so that was the first sign that we had a problem,” explained Shovlin.
“We’ve had recurring issue over the course of Saturday and going into the race we were expecting it because it seems to be a feature of the model.
“So, at the moment if we build the car and run it this problem will appear at some point – it’s just a question of how soon.”
Shovlin went on to explain the cause of the issue, adding: “It’s basically a build-up of electrical noise that starts to interfere with the various systems so with Valtteri we saw that halfway through the race, it got progressively worse, [then] with Lewis it appeared later. But it’s electrical noise that’s then affecting a lot of different things.
“Austria’s just a really horrible circuit for the cars. Normally you start the season somewhere like Melbourne, and Melbourne’s a track where it’s very difficult to overtake, and when it’s difficult to overtake you can then afford to look after your car and people aren’t going to get by.
“This is a circuit where it’s quite easy to overtake and as a result if you don’t use the kerbs, if you don’t push hard, you’re at risk. That’s one of the factors, but it’s the kerbs themselves that are very, very violent and you spend a lot of the lap running on them.
“For us, that was that issue and it probably doesn’t help that it’s nearly 30 degrees here, the air’s a bit thin so it’s hot, there isn’t as much cooling as you normally get, and all the temperatures inside the car are high.”