It’s rare to hear a team principal use the word “poisonous” to describe their car’s handling. But that is exactly what Mercedes boss Toto Wolff did in Miami.
The team endured another tricky weekend at the Miami Grand Prix. Mercedes lead Friday’s practice 1-2 but then suffered a shock Q2 elimination on the Saturday for Lewis Hamilton
They were perhaps more encouraged by their race pace on Sunday. George Russell, who scraped through to the final part of qualifying by a mere 0.052s, brought his car home in a respectable fourth position after making up two places.
However Russell was 33 seconds off the winner Max Verstappen while Hamilton, sixth, was nearly a minute behind.
Toto Wolff and the Mercedes technical team have been left scratching their heads since the start of last season. With the W14 they remained largely faithful to last year’s car concept, bar some adaptions for the 2023 floor rule tweaks, believing it still had a big upsides.
But they decided weeks ago a change in direction was needed. Their rollercoaster weekend in Miami was a further demonstration why: the team is sorely lacking consistency in the performance of its car.
“That’s the story of the car,” said Wolff after the race. “We have very good sessions like on Friday, then we had a very difficult qualifying and then on Sunday we have solid pace.
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“But solid pace is not where we want to be. And we need to understand why we are lacking that speed for a lap.
“So there is nothing to be relieved of by having a more decent Sunday because you’ve just got to start at the front and you’ve got to be able to manage all the Red Bulls and the other guys and that’s not the case yet.”
Mercedes is introducing a major update for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, which includes changes to the floor, front suspension and its distinctive sidepods. The revisions are eagerly awaited, but Wolff is at pains to stress they won’t immediately transform the team’s performance.
“We need to manage our own expectations because we’re bringing an update package that’s going to consist of new suspension parts and bodywork and some other things,” he said Wolff. “I have never in my 15 years in Formula 1 seen a silver bullet being introduced, where suddenly you unlock half a second of performance, so I very much doubt that this is going to happen here.
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