The start of the season did not bring great satisfaction for Mercedes. On the contrary, the round in Bahrain raised an alarm bell that is impossible to ignore, because the W14 did not respond to expectations, with a gap from the top that seems to have even widened compared to what was seen in the last few races of 2022.
The Brackley team has chosen to keep faith with its construction philosophy, without abandoning the “zeropods” concept, even though some changes have been made inside to improve the overall load and to perfect the cleanliness of the flows.
But that wasn’t enough to take the step forward that the star expected and having finished in Sakhir not only behind Ferrari, but also Aston Martin, put further pressure on the environment, which is now called upon to give an answer. Short-term corrections are already planned for the next races, perhaps even before Imola, the target that the group led by Mike Elliott had set for itself, but it is clear that this cannot be enough in the medium and long term to get back to fighting with consistency in top positions.
After the unsatisfactory qualifications of the opening round in Bahrain, Toto Wolff had not mince words, indicating how the team would aim for a change of concept in the future, in order to restore vitality to a team that, at the moment, is not striving for the goals set.
This was also confirmed by Andrew Shovlin, head of the Mercedes track engineers, who, however, was keen to underline how these radical modifications will require time and work, also because behind these innovations there will be changes under the bonnet that go beyond the simple geometry of the bellies.
“People tend to use the word concept when referring to the design of the sides. Toto recently said that we are working on a revision, which will arrive in the next few weeks anyway. Given the gap from the top teams, we will certainly see radical changes,” Shovlin explained in a video released by Mercedes.
George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
“But these solutions take time to become solutions that lead to an improvement in the wind tunnel. These are not things that can be done overnight.”
“That requires a lot of work around what can require such a major change in terms of geometry in that area. So, for sure we are trying to understand where we can improve the car, development potential, and there will be some visible changes that will already arrive in the next races.”
While waiting for the most important news, there are two elements on which the team intends to work on in the short term: tire wear and reduce, as far as possible, the gap from Red Bull, trying to stay ahead of Ferrari and Aston Martin, with which shares Power Unit, gearbox and rear suspension.
Net of the first stint on the soft compound, where the W14 suffered the most, the pace and degradation on the hard tire in the second and third stints seemed more convincing, especially when compared with that recorded by Sainz, but the two Stella drivers were unable to do anything to stem the comebacks of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll.
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
“We have a lot of work to do. The gap in qualifying was really important, we were over half a second off pole. But in the race (the gap) it was even bigger. And that comes from the fact that when you start to get degraded, the tire starts to slip and heat up and it becomes more difficult to keep things under control,” added Shovlin.
“So there are several things we need to work on, such as improving degradation, because last year that was one of our strengths. But, more generally, we have to work to close the gap from the top. We are working very hard to understand what we can do both in the short and medium term to find ourselves in a better situation”.
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