Mercedes achieved its most impressive outcome of the 2023 season in the recent race in Spain, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell securing second and third places respectively, trailing the dominant winner Max Verstappen.
The team’s strong performance, coupled with the impressive speed displayed by the W14 throughout the race, indicates a substantial improvement following months of grappling with the ‘zeropod’ concept.
Nevertheless, the bitter experience of 2022, when Mercedes mistakenly believed their promising pace in the Spanish Grand Prix marked a resurgence, only to falter in subsequent races, has instilled caution and prevented premature enthusiasm.
While Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff remains guarded and avoids complacency, he acknowledges that the current situation differs from the disappointments of the previous year.
When asked if the progress witnessed in the Spanish GP truly reflects Mercedes’ current standing, Wolff shared with F1 Flow.com, “I’m never optimistic. Only fools are optimistic, but generally I think it feels different to last year.”
He added, “There is still some uncertainty, which is intriguing to explore, but we have gained valuable knowledge in the past 12 months. That is why I have several reasons to be cautiously confident.”
Hamilton demonstrated promising pace in Barcelona and appeared poised to secure a spot on the front row, but his final attempts were hindered by car damage resulting from a collision with teammate Russell during Q2.
During the race, comparing Hamilton’s performance to Verstappen’s was challenging due to the Red Bull driver employing a distinct tire strategy for a significant portion of the afternoon.
The only phase of the race where both drivers were on the same tires was during the final soft stint, where the Mercedes appeared to be a few tenths of a second slower per lap.
Both drivers also pursued the fastest lap, with Hamilton ending up three tenths adrift, despite benefiting slightly from the use of DRS.
Wolff estimated that the gap between Mercedes and Red Bull currently stands at a few tenths, emphasizing that this represents a substantial leap forward given the team’s earlier struggles this season.
He remarked, “I think it is two to three tenths. That’s how we would assess it today. And that’s a significant step forward. But we need to remain composed, as last year we seemed fairly competitive in Barcelona.”
He continued, “However, as long as the trajectory continues to rise, there will inevitably be fluctuations. There will be challenging moments, but I’m pleased with the progress made in Brixworth and Brackley.”
Wolff also commended the dedication of Mercedes’ personnel, who displayed the courage to abandon the ‘zeropod’ concept and adopt a new approach to car development.
“It is a testament to the relentless effort invested over the past few months and the bravery exhibited in terms of choosing a completely new front suspension, floor, bodywork, and various other components,” he stated.
“We now possess a more robust foundation for future development, thanks to our increased understanding.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Mercedes F1 progress
Q: What was Mercedes’ best result of the 2023 F1 season so far?
A: Mercedes achieved their best result of the 2023 season in Spain, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finishing second and third respectively behind Max Verstappen.
Q: Did Mercedes’ performance in Spain indicate a significant improvement?
A: Yes, the strong pace displayed by Mercedes’ W14 car in Spain suggests a significant leap forward in form after struggling with the ‘zeropod’ concept. However, the team remains cautious due to past experiences.
Q: How does Toto Wolff compare this year’s progress to the previous year?
A: Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal, believes that this year’s progress feels different from the previous year. While not overly optimistic, he acknowledges that they have learned a lot in the last 12 months, providing reasons for careful confidence.
Q: How did Lewis Hamilton fare in the Spanish Grand Prix?
A: Lewis Hamilton had the pace to secure a front-row position in qualifying but was hampered by car damage in a collision with his teammate George Russell during Q2. He finished the race in second place.
Q: What was the gap between Mercedes and Red Bull in terms of performance?
A: Toto Wolff estimates the gap between Mercedes and Red Bull to be a few tenths of a second. This represents a significant improvement for Mercedes considering their earlier struggles this season.
Q: What changes did Mercedes make to their car development approach?
A: Mercedes made bold changes to their car development approach, including a completely new front suspension, floor, bodywork, and other components. This decision was praised for providing a more solid platform for further development.