Having fallen further adrift of F1 2023’s dominant team Red Bull, Mercedes soon decided sticking to its unique floor and sidepod concept was a mistake.
It started working on a significant revamp of its W14, which also tackles the front suspension and aims to make the car less “poisonous to drive” for Russell and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
That long-awaited update arrives in time for this weekend’s first European race of the season.
But Russell stressed that his new-look Mercedes won’t immediately allow the Silver Arrows to make a giant leap. Instead, it is supposed to make the W14 a much more stable platform to develop and extract performance from down the line.
“Imola is a new weekend, we’ll have some new bits on the car,” Russell said after finishing fourth in last weekend’s Miami Grand Prix, two spots ahead of Hamilton.
“Hopefully that’s positive. It’s not going to change the world for us in the short term but hopefully it’s a step in the right direction.
“I think we can’t get carried away ourselves, we need to do the talking on the track.
“We need to see how the upgrades perform when we get there. Fingers crossed they’re brilliant, but we’ll only know that on Friday morning.”
George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14
Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images
Russell reckons the W14’s handling difficulties are behind Mercedes’ tendency of starting every grand prix weekend on the back foot.
In Miami, the Brackley team got off to a particularly challenging start, with Hamilton eliminated in Q2 and Russell only just scraping into the top 10.
“I think it’s probably because the car is quite challenging to drive at the moment,” Russell said. “We’ve got a lot to improve. As I said, we know where we are at the moment.”
Explaining the philosophy behind this weekend’s Imola upgrades, Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said: “We do hope that it is quicker, we hope that it’s better in terms of qualifying and race pace.
“The key thing though is that we are not just looking to bring a lap time update, we are looking to head off in a different development direction.
“One that we think gives us a better chance in the long term of being able to challenge for race wins and world championships.
“The Imola package are the first steps in that direction. We are hoping to bring other updates later in the year.”
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