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Why Mercedes feels like "a bus" to Hamilton

Why Mercedes feels like "a bus" to Hamilton

Why Mercedes feels like "a bus" to Hamilton

Why Mercedes feels like "a bus" to Hamilton

The Mercedes W11 was arguably the greatest F1 car assembled and went on to dominate the 2020 championship, so it is a surprise to hear its successor likened to "a bus".

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton was providing an insight into why the team had such a poor weekend at Monaco, where he finished seventh.

Afterwards, he said: “Monaco has never generally been a strong track for us.

"We have the longest car. A longer car is like a bus to turn through the corners so it’s not as nimble as the others on a small track like Monaco but it is great elsewhere."

So why exactly is this the case?

Why Mercedes made a long-wheelbase car

One of our favourite topics of discussion this season re-emerges - rake.

A high-raked car aims to 'extend' the diffuser, accelerating the air underneath the front of the car by increasing the air pressure through the narrow margin between the front of the floor and the road surface.

With a low-rake philosophy, Mercedes aims to create the same volume of air underneath the car as, say, Red Bull does with a high-rake set-up by maximising the floor area ahead of the diffuser, rather than trying to 'extend' the diffuser.

This means that because the airflow is more consistent underneath the car, rather than being rushed, more stability can be achieved with the generated downforce.

Despite being a more difficult concept to master - look at Aston Martin's early-season struggles - this style has been a driving force behind Mercedes' dominance.

To maximise the floor area, naturally, Mercedes has to increase the length of its wheelbase to hold a greater volume of air underneath the floor, hence why it has regularly had the longest car on the grid.

Why a longer car hurt Mercedes more at Monaco?

Let's be clear, this was not the first time Mercedes has struggled at a race weekend throughout its seven-year monopoly of F1.

Singapore was a constant thorn in the Silver Arrows' side due to the twisty nature of the circuit, especially the tight final sector.

So why is it that these tight sections of a circuit hurt Mercedes? The long wheelbase makes a car less manoeuvrable than one that is shorter.

Take Hamilton's "bus" remark. Driving around a city like London, for example, a small city car is the vehicle of choice for a driver because it is easier to navigate around the tighter confines of the city's streets than a big vehicle, such as a bus.

You may be thinking 'well, all tracks have slow-speed sections'. Yes, they do.

But Monaco and Singapore, as examples, have multiple changes of direction at low speed where the distance travelled between each corner is smaller than at many 'normal' tracks, ensuring the shorter, more nimble cars like Red Bull and Ferrari have an inherent advantage.

Of course, there were multiple issues across the weekend, such as tyre warm-up, but a lot of the chasing being done by the Mercedes mechanics on set-up was from being on the back-foot from the off because of the wheelbase.

What about the rest of the season?

The issue will not be as bad for Mercedes at the next race in Baku, although the middle sector of the lap may cause issues.

The next circuit that poses a big risk to overall performance is Hungary, but then Hamilton has won the last three races at the Hungaroring.

Singapore will no doubt pose problems again, and whilst the new street circuit in Jeddah will be an unknown quantity, it does appear to be a fast and open challenge.

Mercedes knows what it is doing. As mentioned above, the issues experienced in Monaco have been overcome before.

But with Red Bull now leading both championships, Mercedes know it needs to be near-flawless for the rest of the campaign.


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