George Russell: Mercedes “struggling to understand” W15

Jaden Diaz
12 Mar, 2024

George Russell believes there is potential to unlock within the Mercedes W15, but the Silver Arrows are still struggling to capture this potential. After two difficult campaigns for the Brackley-based team, doubts are already creeping in about the F1 team’s 2024 trajectory.

Inconsistency has been a common theme for Mercedes in the last two years. However, over winter, the expectation was that a new platform would eliminate the gremlins of 2022/23.

Pre-season testing did little to show the W15’s true performance, whilst cooling issues at the Bahrain GP made any assessments of the Mercedes car tricky.

However, there were no excuses or external factors to justify Mercedes’ performance in Saudi Arabia.

Aside from their lukewarm finishing result of P6 and P9, perhaps the most telling aspect of the team’s predicament was the first sector.

In his final stint on soft tyres, Lewis Hamilton was consistently losing over five-tenths to Lando Norris. For this high-speed vulnerability to be broadcast so openly inevitably raised serious concerns.

Toto Wolff

An old enemy returns to Mercedes

To make matters worse, Toto Wolff has hinted at fundamental issues with simulator correlation. This is becoming a recurring problem for Mercedes and could impede their chances of progressing in the foreseeable future.

George Russell was candid about the problems being faced at the factory and – by extension – trackside:

“Still struggling to understand this car, in all honesty. Because it’s shown true performance at points,” he told Sky Sports.

“At Bahrain, we were P1 and P2 in practice, straight out of the box.

“Here [in Jeddah] on Thursday, we were quick. And we’ve kind of got a little bit slower as the weekend progressed.

“So we need to understand why that is and tap into the data to understand it further.”

Lewis Hamilton is similarly pessimistic in his feedback, outlining that Mercedes are very far from competing at the front.

With the window of opportunity narrowing under these F1 regulations, there is no time to waste at Brackley.

No margin for error in modern F1: Time is running out

The German constructor cannot be written off, but assuming that progress is imminent would also be a mistake. Only Red Bull and (to some degree) Ferrari can be confident in their trajectory.

James Allison’s pre-season optimism would not have been unfounded, but this only makes the discrepancy between the team’s expectations and actual results more worrying.

The upcoming sequence of rounds will be critical. Not only are the first upgrade packages of 2024 being introduced, but for some teams, more mileage is needed to understand their current platforms.

As shown by Aston Martin last season, introducing updates is never guaranteed to generate more lap time.

Therefore, for most Mercedes faithful, a “seeing is believing approach” will surely become standard regarding their development.

Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang

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