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How ‘unconventional’ approach helped Mercedes to shock Hungary pole

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes his team’s willingness to try ‘unconventional’ things in Formula 1 is behind its surprise pole position at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

George Russell, Mercedes W13

George Russell, Mercedes W13

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

After a difficult first half to the F1 season, George Russell delivered Mercedes' best qualifying result of the campaign with a shock pole at the Hungaroring.

While the team has no proper explanation for why things went so well at the tight and bumpy circuit, Wolff suspects that out of the box thinking with test items and setup at each race weekend has been critical in unlocking something on its W13.

He cited the example of the team running a new floor at the British GP that had not been evaluated in the windtunnel as one stand out example of not doing things as it has in the past.

“This season, we have done unconventional things,” he explained. “I remember having a chat with a very clever lady in aerodynamics and she said: ‘if you would have told me last year that we're putting a floor on the car that we haven't run in the windtunnel, I would have said we are never going to do this.’ We did and everybody was proud of the results.

“It’s been same thing every weekend, and more so on Friday and Saturday here. We've tried things.”

 

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Mercedes has struggled to get a proper direction on developments this year, with the team often finding that data from the windtunnel is not fully matching up with what it is experiencing on track.

That has prompted it to be a bit bolder with its approach to race weekends, in the hope of finding the answer for this disparity.

“This is a database sport,” said Wolff. “But if you can't rely on the data, because they don't correlate from the virtual world, from the tunnels, from CFD, and from the simulations, with what's happening in real time on the track, you just have got to try things and find correlations: basically reverse engineer correlation. This is what we've done here and had some positive results.”

Wolff said that key for the team now was in understanding exactly what elements had worked in Hungary to give the team such a good result after a woeful Friday.

“I have no explanation,” he said. “I think what I said to Shov [Andrew Shovlin], write down everything that you did today from this morning onwards, including the food, to retrace why it's going so well.

“This season has been oscillation between depression and exuberance and sometimes changing from day to day. Here [on Friday], we tried things that didn't work at all. But they gave us a little bit more direction.

“But to be honest, it's a painful exercise this year. And today is one of the days where all tendencies of the season, where we've been really bad in qualifying, but performing well on the Sunday, we've actually unlocked some potential in the car.

“If we can prove that our race pace hasn't suffered, then I would see us back in a solid position.”

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