Lewis Hamilton was surprised Mercedes were so far behind Red Bull in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and warning porpoising was back with a vengeance ahead of the final race of the 2022 F1 season.
It’s a Noah’s Ark grid for the grand prix as Red Bull locked out the front row and Ferrari secured third and fourth ahead of the two Mercedes, led by Hamilton who was 0.687s behind Max Verstappen‘s pole time.
“It was a bit of surprising qualifying just to be so far behind,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1.
“We thought that this would be a difficult race for us, but through the weekend so far we weren’t looking like we were eight-tenths down
“Six-tenths of that’s just on the straights, but I gave it everything and looking forward to the end of tomorrow.”
Mercedes achieved a 1-2 at the Brazilian Grand Prix to cap off a season of great improvement since they turned up to the season opener in Bahrain well off the pace.
A week on from Interlagos it was back to square one though, as their qualifying deficit to the Red Bulls and Ferraris mirrored that opening weekend at Sakhir.
“I don’t know if Brazil was misleading. I mean, we got a 1-2 but it’s obviously track-specific,” Hamilton added.
Formula 1 XXII: Return of the Bounce
The gap to the front wasn’t the only thing from the start of the 2022 season that Mercedes had to deal with.
Porpoising was noticeably back in full force, after Mercedes thought the worse was behind them on that front.
Porpoising is where the bottom of the car gets too low to the track and the airflow around the ground-effect elements stalls, forcing it upwards. Once it bounces up that airflow restarts pushing the car down again and the process repeats.
Mercedes were the worst-affected team and pressured the FIA to take action as they claimed it was a safety concern, the FIA eventually issued a technical directive in an attempt to reduce the bouncing.
“Well bouncing is back with a vengeance,” Hamilton said in Abu Dhabi, “That’s definitely losing us time.
“Then I had some brake problems we’ve had most of the year, just with the brake discs separating and brake temperature.
“So when you hit the brake, the car pulls one direction so if you’re going into turn five the cars pulling to the right and it’s a left-hand corner so it’s not ideal.”