Damon Hill on the mixed messages surrounding Mercedes upgrades

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton makes a Mercedes pit stop in the grand prix. Miami May 2023

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton makes a pit stop in the grand prix. Miami May 2023

Damon Hill, and most likely every F1 fan around the world, is excited to see what Mercedes do with their sidepods when their upgraded W14 takes to the track next Friday in Monaco.

Having declared after the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, a race where his drivers were over 50s down on race winner Max Verstappen, that the W14 as it is won’t be a race-winning car, Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff promised radical changes were on the horizon.

He subsequently revealed those changes include “new suspension parts, bodywork and some other things”, all of which were scheduled to debut at Imola only to be pushed back to Monaco after the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was cancelled due to heavy rainfall and flooding in the region.

Mercedes haven’t given much away when it comes to the car’s updates, George Russell saying he has already trialled the upgrades in the simulator.

Speaking in the days leading up to the cancelled Imola race, he told Tom Clarkson on the F1 Nation podcast not to “expect the world to change”, adding that “Red Bull are still going to be the quickest. I don’t care where we are. We’re chasing them and we want to beat them.”

Hill reckons Mercedes’ progresss, and their attempts to close the gap to Red Bull, could rest with the zero-pods and whether the team has made the call to scrap them.

PlanetF1.com recommends

Lewis Hamilton frustration could continue after seat position verdict

Lewis Hamilton blames FIA’s regulation changes that ‘never seem to work’ for boring F1

“I think you spoke to George after the race in Miami and he was downplaying. He said, ‘Listen, don’t expect too much’,” Hill said to Clarkson on the latest F1 Nation podcast.

“Then you have Toto saying, ‘We got this big package coming’, and of course we’re expecting a lot.

“We’re expecting a huge amount, especially if they talk about the sidepod, because that’s been the big bone of contention over the last two years – why do their sidepods look so different to everyone else?

“And then you have the people at Mercedes saying, ‘Well that’s actually a small part of the aero package, and you’re making too much of it’.

“But there’s got to be something in it.

“We’re very excited to see what they’re going to bring in terms of that, so intriguing to predict or to guess what we’re going to see on the Mercedes.”

Lewis Hamilton also weighed in on the upcoming upgrades after Miami, a race in which he went from being knocked out in Q2 to finishing sixth in the grand prix.

He told Sky Sports: “Well, it’s a bit of an unknown. It’s not like I have a one-second upgrade coming, which is what I need.

“But it’s something. It’s a step in the right direction, hopefully, for us to really be able to progress.”

Wolff, however, has ruled out the possibility of the car suddenly being even half a second quicker per lap.

Calling the planned upgrades a “good new baseline” from which the team will “continue to develop”, he told Sky Deutschland: “We have to be careful that we have our expectations under control.

“I don’t think we’ll get there and suddenly we’re half a second faster and in the middle of a fight. We won’t.

“But we are now laying a new foundation and at least taking some issues off the table that we believe are contributing to us being too slow. Let’s see what that brings.”