When we were doing our silly season overview on the latest cast, I stated I didn’t know what Mercedes were playing at by missing the first test. Neither one of us really could comprehend what they were playing at, especially for a team who’s vested goal is to be at the very sharp end of the field. Brawn’s success in the early part of ’09 showed us what the team is capable of, but they’ve since been in a sort of no-man’s land between the sharp end and the midfield teams.
So, you might understand my confusion when it was announced that Mercedes AMG Petrobabble would not run their car at test numero uno, opting to start at the second test. Full disclosure, I’ve been watching way too much Sherlock as of late, so I may be over-deducing here, but I think I may have figured out why they’re doing this.
The first hint here is Rosberg saying he’s alright with missing the first test. Initially this struck me as just a typical PR move by Mercedes. When missing something this big teams usually take one of two routes. Either they apologize profusely, or they try and suppress as quickly as possible. But in this case, you had a driver for a team trying to move up actively campaigning to miss valuable testing time. This lead me to believe Mercedes knew their car was a dud, and they were trying to save face for sponsorships sake. However, a second clue recently dropped, which isn’t directly related to Merc, but indirectly points me to a new conclusion.
I think Mercedes have developed a winning car, capable of at least besting Ferrari in the WCC, and possibly securing a WDC podium slot.
The clue is Lotus’s recent “Suspensiongate” incident, where the sudden brain train led Merc to acquire some staff from the sinking team. I’m pretty sure at least some of this staff took their knowledge of the new system with them. Now, although this system was leaked after Merc announced they were missing the first test, I think it plays to a general theme. Mercedes have some sort of unique and/or revolutionary system. It might be a realization of this whole “front wing F-Duct” we’ve been hearing about, it might be an offshoot of some psudo-mass damper concepts that have been floating around. Either way, it’s something Mercedes are very confident will improve their pace, but revolutionary enough that they want to keep the other teams in the dark as long as possible. This is even more applicable now knowing how fast other teams are copying R&D this season.
I’m going to call it that Merc have perfected this front F-Duct concept. To keep them out of testing, the part would have to be relatively simple to test and refine, otherwise you would want to test as much as possible. A wing can be fitted and tested in a wind tunnel, and the data is easy to analyze. Contrast that to a suspension system, which needs to be tested in full scale race conditions, and would demand actual testing.In fact, I’m confident that Merc won’t run this part until the third test, using the second test only to confirm that their basic design works.