Mercedes has commenced a review into why it failed to generate sufficient energy into its tyres across the Turkish Grand Prix weekend in which it floundered until Lewis Hamilton's late recovery drive.
Formula 1's return to Istanbul Park after a nine-year absence threw up a unique set of challenges, notably a newly resurfaced circuit in conjunction with cool temperatures given the time of year that ensured the track was unable to dry when it rained.
It resulted in Mercedes' dominance for this season being thoroughly tested, notably in qualifying in which Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were considerably off the pace, similarly at the start of the race until conditions eventually played into the Briton's hands.
"The circumstances created in the Turkish GP qualifying are unique and haven’t happened either in 2020 previously or for many years prior to that," said Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles.
"You need both a freshly resurfaced circuit, which in the case of the Turkish GP that was done just weeks prior to us turning up, and you also need very cool conditions without much running on dry tyres, so the circuit can’t grip up and change.
"On Friday the lap times evolved by over 10 seconds, to provide an idea as to how much that circuit was evolving, and it continued to evolve both in qualifying, even though we were on wet tyres, and during the race.
"The significance of that is that it’s such a different circumstance to normal. The teams had to adapt very quickly to get the tyres working, to generate enough energy, to generate enough temperature and we for sure were on the bad side of that compared to our competitors."
Proclaiming Racing Point and Red Bull to be "class-leading", Vowles further clarified that the W11 was unable to generate the energy and heat required into its tyres on one lap, and beyond then continued to struggle to find the right operating window.
Hamilton eventually ended up five seconds behind Racing Point's Lance Stroll in qualifying, and was a pit stop adrift of the Canadian early in the race when the combination of the conditions were at their worst.
"If you dig into why, it is all about the energy that you are putting into a tyre - the engine will produce energy as you turn and rotate the rear tyres and generate slip, the brakes will generate energy, both front and rear, and again that will go into the tyre," explained Vowles.
"But obviously the ground is wet, and the rain is taking away energy from the tyres continuously, so it is all about putting more energy in than is being taken away by the conditions.
"The faster you are in certain parts of the track, the more energy you generate and the more temperature you generate, but where we were with our car in those conditions was offset relative to the leaders. so much so we couldn’t generate the performance required."
Effectively, an Achilles heel of the car has been discovered, albeit requiring exceptional circumstances to be exposed.
Vowles has confirmed Mercedes will now seek to address the issue, especially with the cars remaining stable into 2021, and with no guarantee such conditions will not be repeated elsewhere.
"We don’t build a car for these conditions," said Vowles. "We’re building a car that works on tracks in a normal range of temperatures that we are expecting, be it wet or dry, and clearly we ran out of tools and authority to be able to change what we needed to, in this occasion to generate the tyre temperature.
"We don’t have all the answers, but we are reviewing exactly what we would do now with a new set of components or set-up changes should this circumstance appear again.
"It is unlikely to in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, the two circuits that are coming up towards the end of the year, but in all likelihood could reappear again in the near future and we need to be prepared.”
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