Mercedes’ hopes that their W14 might become more competitive after the Formula 1 field moved on from the Bahrain International Circuit were not realised on the first day of practice in Jeddah.
On a circuit with fewer slow corners than Bahrain and a less abrasive surface, the team’s leading car, driven by George Russell, ended second practice almost half a second off Max Verstappen’s pace-setting Red Bull.
Russell’s team mate Lewis Hamilton finished outside the top 10, lapping almost a full second slower than the reigning world champion. Asked whether the team’s W14 was an improvement over the previous year’s car, Hamilton said “it’s pretty much the same.”
“I definitely struggled in the session,” Hamilton added. “I struggled in both sessions.”
“We’ll just continue to go into the details, try to improve the balance of the car, make it easier to drive,” he continued. “It’s a tough car to drive but I know everyone’s working so hard at the factory so it’s just a matter of time just having to be patient.”
Russell tried the new parts Mercedes brought for this weekend’s race but Russell said these are only modest steps. “There’s small changes for this weekend but it’s probably closer to what we had in Bahrain compared to what we want to see in the future,” he said.
“We had some test items on the car for FP2 on my side. But again, these are just small things in the short term. To do it right, it takes a bit more time.”
He believes “Red Bull are out front” this weekend and Mercedes won’t be able to get on terms with them yet.
“We’re not going to find a second overnight, as much as I’d love to do that and all of the hard work everybody’s putting in,” he said. “We need to just continue to understand and recognise [that] the sort of new direction we’re taking as a team [is] the correct one.
“That’s for the guys and girls back at the factory, everybody here to unpick the data. But for me this weekend and sort of a small group of engineers, you just go out there and try and maximise what you’ve got.”
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2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
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