Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team Chief Designer John Owen revealed that the team was ‘pretty confused’ by their ‘diva’ 2017 car at the start of the season, though admitted that the more research they did, the more they understood it.
Mercedes suffered a shock defeat at the first race of the 2017 season in Australia, having won the inaugural race for the previous three consecutive years. This set up a season-long battle between Mercedes and Scuderia Ferrari, as the two marques fought for supremacy.
Speaking about last year’s car, Owen said that the team weren’t sure what to do to make the car work.
“With this car, we didn’t understand it, and I think the term ‘diva’ came along because we seemed to do what looked like the right things and it didn’t respond the way we wanted it to,” said Owen to Motorsport.com.
“In those early races we were pretty confused, to be honest, and we really didn’t know what we should do.”
Mercedes struggled to find pace early in the season, losing two of the first three races and often seeing large gaps in the performance of their two cars. This then seemed exacerbated on slow or hot circuits, with drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas losing out on the Hungaroring’s tight turns and Malaysia’s incredible temperature. Owens says that, to regain the upper hand, the team had to do ‘more [analysis] than any other year’.
“Throughout the year our car was probably heavier on its rear tyres; some were heavier on their front tyres,” said Owen. “It’s trying to work out the best way to run your car to balance the wear both ends.
“We found tracks like Silverstone, Montreal, or Monza, Austin, Suzuka – these are really good tracks for us, but the slower tracks, the hotter circuits, we struggled more.
“We tried a lot of things and gradually, as the races went by, the more we thought about it, the more analysis we did – and I’d say we did more than any other year in digging into and understanding – we started to get on top of those issues.
“That’s been great, and I think at the end of the season we probably wouldn’t call our car a diva anymore. Certainly, we intend to knock out as many of those awkward characteristics as we can for next year, and hopefully not introduce any new ones.“