How chasing ‘quick’ performance has ultimately cost Mercedes dear

Michelle Foster
George Russell, Mercedes, 2024 Japanese Grand Prix.

George Russell up close in action

Chasing performance, and quickly, George Russell thinks Mercedes have “perhaps” made too many changes in the ground-effect aerodynamic era – and with the W15 they’ve gone “too far”.

Mercedes’ W13 was the surprise package when Formula 1 welcomed ground-effect aerodynamic cars to the grid in 2022, the Brackley squad all-but erasing their car’s sidepods in a design dubbed the zero-pod.

‘Perhaps we changed a couple of times too many…’

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

But bouncing from one track to another, the team scrambled to find solutions and thought they were on the right track when Russell won that year’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

However, at the start of F1 2023 it was evident to everyone that they weren’t, prompting the team to drop the zero-pods, change the suspension, and effectively put band-aids on the W14 until such a time they had the scope to design an all-new car.

That arrived this season, the W15, but even the heavily revised car with its reconfigured sidepod shape, a pushrod rear suspension and altered cockpit position hasn’t yielded the results the team expected.

Neither Russell nor Lewis Hamilton have a Grand Prix podium so far this year with Mercedes scoring just 64 points in six races, putting them 175 points behind championship leaders Red Bull.

Russell admits they may have gone too far.

“I think it’s clear back two years ago that we didn’t start on the right track,” he told the media including ahead of the Imola GP.

“And we’ve been changing the tracks a number of times over these past two seasons to try and find a path that we will be able to build upon.

“Perhaps we changed a couple of times too many, perhaps. We’ve been trying to find development slopes that will give us big performance quickly.

“And you know, maybe that just isn’t, isn’t feasible when I think these guys have just been building upon their platform, and they’ve been doing a really great job.

“But we have a clear direction. I think it was obvious that we overstepped the changes we’ve made to this car, we’ve gone too far in the other way, and we just need to reel it back slightly and find that happy medium.

“But as we’ve said a number of times if it was easy, everybody would be winning, and everybody would be finding lots of performance.

“We’re competing with so many great teams and we’re we just need to try and find that step that going to bring us into that fight with the guys in front of us.”

More on Mercedes’ 2024 struggles

👉Lewis Hamilton ‘has made himself a victim’ with Mercedes W15 set-up experiments

👉Mercedes ‘still lost’ with pundit placing team ‘not in a good spot still’ despite upgrades

The Briton, who sits P7 in the Drivers’ standings, is grateful that this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix is a return to the traditional format as Mercedes need the added practice session to test their new parts.

The team upgraded the W15 in Miami with more new parts arriving at Imola.

“I think this has come at a really, really good time for us,” said Russell.

“I think, personally I’ve been enjoying the Sprint race weekend, but when you’re trying to get on top of your car, trying to test things, only having those one practice sessions for the past two race weekends – it’s been over a month I think since the last conventional race weekend where you can afford to test – it has put us a little bit on the backfoot.

“But ultimately, we find ourselves in this position because of maybe a lack of understanding earlier in the year. So, you know, we’re quite excited to get back to a standard weekend.”

Read next: Significant rear wing change for Ferrari catches the eye in Imola paddock