Lando Norris’ biting verdict on Mercedes’ fall from grace in F1’s ground-effect era

Michelle Foster
Lando Norris standing in parc ferme after the race

Lando Norris standing amongst the cars in parc ferme

Lando Norris expected more from Mercedes in F1’s ground-effect aerodynamic era, the Briton perplexed by their proclamations of understanding the concept only to “never” get it right.

Winning seven World titles and eight Constructors’ in eight years, Mercedes’ perfect record was blighted in 2021 when Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to the World title in the final year before new cars were introduced.

Lando Norris’ honest assessment of Mercedes troubles

But given Mercedes’ prowess in previous seasons, little did anyone – the Brackley squad included – know that 2021 would be the last year they’d fight for a World title.

Off the pace in the new ground-effect aerodynamic era, Mercedes have struggled with everything from bouncing to downforce to correlation issues.

Winning just one race in the first year, Mercedes believed they’d unlocked the potential of their zero-pod F1 car only to stumble in 2023.

So much so they scrapped that concept, tweaked the car as much as they could during a season, and then put an all-new W15 on the track this year.

The results are still not coming.

The Silver Arrows have yet to finish on the podium in a Grand Prix with their only champagne celebrations coming at the Sprint in China hours after which Lewis Hamilton’s proclamations of a “step forward” were negated by his Q1 exit in qualifying.

It has Mercedes scratching their heads as to what exactly is going on, the W15 not performing on the track as the simulator numbers read.

Even their rivals are perplexed.

“If you look at how dominant Mercedes have been in the past, you would have expected more from them,” Norris told Press Association.

“I did, especially how much over the last few years they have said: ‘Ah, now we have got it’, and they never seem to.

“We have had that, where we have hit another roadblock, so it is tricky. But they were almost more competitive last year than they are now and you just wouldn’t expect that from them. But it shows how complicated this sport can be.”

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Former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher called it a “bitter pill” for the Brackley squad.

“It’s definitely not enough, the demands are different, but the question is where the journey is going,” he said. “Updates can come again and hopefully something will change.

“It’s a bitter pill, especially when you see the race speed. When the customer teams drive in front of you, it’s not that pleasant.”

Mercedes will bring an upgrade for the W15 to the next race in Miami.

According to technical director James Allison: “The challenge that we face in the coming races is to try and move both the set up of the car and also the pieces that we bring to the car so that [the balance] is improved.

“We’ve got upgrade packages coming to the car but also components that we hope will rectify the underlying balance that is causing us difficulty.”

Mercedes are fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, on 52 points to McLaren’s 96 and only 12 ahead of Aston Martin.

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