George Russell has hinted that the first significant upgrade package on the Mercedes W14 will arrive at Imola in mid-May, as the so-called European season gets underway in earnest.
Mercedes have confirmed they will be looking to bring minor improvements with them to the next round in Australia, before a four-week gap in the calendar due to the cancellation of the Chinese Grand Prix.
But regarding wholesale changes to the concept of the W14, as ordered by team principal Toto Wolff, Russell is not expecting those to be in place for several more races yet – with a double-header in Azerbaijan and Miami to come before Formula 1 heads to Imola.
He reasoned that, with street or part-street circuits coming up before then, the team may be more “cautious” about bringing significant upgrades to non-traditional circuits.
Alongside that, Russell confirmed the team are wanting to ensure their upgrades will have the desired effect before bringing them to the track, hence why the bigger changes they are looking to make may take longer to appear on the W14.
“Maybe they will come to Imola,” Russell told reporters in Saudi Arabia of where the first significant upgrade package for Mercedes will come, per the Italian edition of Motorsport.com.
“Maybe it can be done a little earlier, but I think you are always a little cautious about taking things to a street track.
“We just have to weigh up the options. With the mistakes we’ve made, we’re not going to rush things unless we’re absolutely 120 per cent sure it’s the right one.
“And obviously, the longer you wait, the greater the impact you can have because of the slope of development, so we have to weigh up the pros and cons.”
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Russell eventually took fourth place in Saudi Arabia after briefly being promoted to the podium places after the confusion surrounding a post-race penalty for Fernando Alonso, which was later rescinded.
But the underlying pace deficit that Mercedes, and every other team, are facing to Red Bull is such that it is tough to see beyond Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez taking race victories between them for the time being.
Russell made it clear Mercedes are still aiming to get themselves into contention at the front, but acknowledged the quality of the work Red Bull have done to put themselves into such a position.
“We want to win races this year, that is our goal,” Russell said. “Of course we would like to fight for the championship, but Red Bull is doing an excellent job.
“The gap they have to the rest of the pack is bigger than we’ve seen in F1 for six, seven or eight years now, so it’s really impressive.”