Mercedes admit that they have some worries ahead of the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, given the unknowns that the weekend poses.
Whilst the team have enjoyed success at the venue in the past, the fact that the Yas Marina Circuit has undergone several changes ahead of the 2021 race means that there is more uncertainty.
Andrew Shovlin, the Silver Arrows’ Trackside Engineering Director, also acknowledges that there have been occasions during the season where tracks that they had expected to suit the car did not provide the edge they had anticipated, and so this adds to a sense of uncertainty going into the finale.
“We’ve had a lot of good races in Abu Dhabi but, going in, we’re worried about the unknowns,” Shovlin told media, including RacingNews365.com.
“There’s lots of new areas of the track. We’ve seen performance swing quite strongly [during the year]. Tracks that we thought we would be competitive at, like Austin, we weren’t good [at] at all.
“Here [in Saudi Arabia] we’ve seen Red Bull show us a clean pair of heels on a single lap, so there’s plenty for us to worry about.
“And then you’ve also got the fact it’s the softest tyres, and those can be really tricky on occasion, they’re quite difficult to get in the window.
“So we’re treating it like a new circuit. We know what we need to do. We need to go there and win.”
Despite the unknowns of the ‘new’ track, Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton have undertaken plenty of preparation to become familiar with its layout.
“We’ve got the layout in the simulator,” Shovlin explained.
“Lewis has been back between every race getting in there, doing the setup work, learning the circuit. It’s a faster lap now, so it’s going to be considerably quicker and lead to a faster overall race.
“You’re also going to have a bit of a patchwork quilt of tarmac, which changes a bit the balance as you go from corner to corner. But, ultimately, a lot of it’s the same.
“We’ve been able to do good work on the simulator and understanding it.”
Who holds the advantage?
The title battle between Hamilton and Max Verstappen, as well as the Constructors’ fight between their two teams, will reach its conclusion in Abu Dhabi, but Shovlin thinks it is difficult to say which side might perform better.
“In terms of who holds the advantage, last year Lewis was [in the car] a few days after a bout of Covid,” Shovlin said.
“There’s no way that he was performing at his best. It’s not an easy thing to get over, and, our analysis after that event – which we do after every race – indicated that we just put the setup in the wrong place.
“We had development tyres there, we did work focusing on those. Ironically, we’d won the championship, and we decided to try and understand the tyres rather than focus on the race weekend.
“We ended up going into the race underprepared with a car that wasn’t well balanced, and I think ultimately that’s where it cost us.”