Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff says it must analyse whether the new floor it brought to the Belgian Grand Prix was responsible for its car suffering from bouncing.
Following a troublesome Sprint Saturday, Mercedes rebounded on Sunday with Lewis Hamilton classified fourth and George Russell recovering to sixth after being compromised on the first lap.
Hamilton was engaged in a race-long duel with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc for the final podium place but the Brit was unable to get close enough to mount an attack.
The only occasions Hamilton threatened Leclerc’s stranglehold on third place was when Mercedes initiated an undercut at both rounds of pit stops, and Wolff asserts the German outfit lacked the pace on Sunday.
“Well that was the only chance to give it a go, they had always a tenth, one and a half tenths advantage per lap,” he said concerning Hamilton’s strategy.
“Coming out ahead I think we could have held it but overall, it’s just – P4 is like a no-place.”
While Red Bull’s unbeaten streak has remained intact, the closest challenger to the reigning World Champions has continuously changed over recent rounds.
Aston Martin, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes have all taken turns to take the chequered flag behind the race-winning Red Bull.
Mercedes introduced an extensive upgrade package at Spa-Francorchamps with the aim of consolidating its position as the second-fastest team in the field.
However, Wolff concedes that Mercedes were stymied by a reoccurrence of the porpoising phenomenon that hampered its progress early in this regulation cycle last year.
“The main limiting factor yesterday and today was the bouncing, the car is bouncing literally on every straight, even Blanchimont is a corner Lewis had to lift that is an easy flat normally and if you are bouncing on the straight, you over-heat the tyres under braking and that is a vicious cycle and was the main limiting factor this weekend,” he revealed.
“It’s frustrating to check out for holidays like this but tomorrow and after tomorrow we’ll understand more based on the data.”
Wolff believes that the new floor it bolted onto the W14 could have potentially been a reason for the extreme bouncing both drivers complained about after the race.
However, despite the issues it encountered in Belgium, the Austrian chief insists that the Brackley-based operation’s development direction remains the correct one.
“Yeah we’ve got to analyse it, there’s so much hard work with the aero guys and the operations team to deliver that upgrade, you’ve got to take your hat off,” he acknowledged.
“The floor could have been a reason for the bouncing but we are going to see in the data and maybe there’s a reason we could find soon, because I still believe the direction we are going now is the right one.”
After being hit with a five-place grid drop for a gearbox change, Verstappen still charged from sixth on the grid to win by 22s over Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.
It marked the Dutchman’s eighth consecutive victory and his third in a row at Spa, having also stormed to the win from 14th last year.
But Wolff reckons that removing Verstappen from the equation and comparing Hamilton’s ability to remain in close proximity to the second Red Bull and Leclerc’s Ferrari demonstrates the progress it has made.
However, he admits the former eight-time World Champions still have a lot of work to do to provide competition to Red Bull and Verstappen for race wins again.
“I think when you compare to the rest of the world, Spa was an awful race and today before that last stop, Perez, Leclerc, us were within six seconds, eight seconds and that is a step for us as I said before because Spa was a disaster in 2022 for us,” he argued.
“We feel we’ve made that step but then you have that top guy who’s made another step in 12 months and we’ve just got to turn that around.”