Lewis Hamilton admits Mercedes’ development work for the W14 had not produced the rewards he was “hoping for” yet as the long-term plan projects Mercedes gaining one second on Red Bull.
Mercedes had already after the Bahrain seasonopener determined that they made a mistake by sticking with their ‘zero-pod’ concept, with focus then switching to the new route to follow as the eight-time Constructors’ champs search for a path back to the front.
And Monaco marked the debut of their new-look W14 challenger, one which moved to a sidepod design more in-line with that of the dominant Red Bull team, plus a host of other changes such as a new floor.
Monaco was not the ideal place to judge the effectiveness of the upgrades, nor was it the preferred venue for their debut, with Imola having been the round where the alterations were expected to arrive before the event’s cancellation.
Next up though is the Spanish Grand Prix, and with the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya a long-standing favourite for testing due to the all-round challenge it provides, this round should offer much stronger insight into how much Mercedes have improved.
Regardless though, Hamilton made it clear that this is only stage one, and the data is suggesting to Mercedes that by the time they reach the final stage, they should have gained a full second on Red Bull’s current pace in race trim.
Red Bull are unlikely to be standing still, even with their reduced wind tunnel time, but such a gain on current calculations would almost, if not completely wipe out the buffer which they currently enjoy over their former title rivals.
Asked ahead of the Spanish GP whether the upgraded Mercedes W14 would provide a pace boost, Hamilton responded: “Well, it’s not the step forward that we were hoping for, the true step forward we’re hoping for is, there’s been around a one-second delta [to Red Bull] in race trim, for example.
“We haven’t covered that with this step, but it is a step in the right direction.
“What I felt last weekend was I felt a little bit more confident in the car, more ability to be able to commit to the corner.
“So, I’m hoping that at this track, that’s the same, but hopefully better.
“There’s a lot of medium and high-speed corners. I’m hoping the flow of the car is better [here]. Maybe in following, we can follow closer.
“There’s a huge amount of work that’s gone into this and we’re hoping that it puts us on the right track.
“We’re changing train tracks. But putting us on the track that can lead to that second.
“When you bring upgrades, naturally you should be progressing forwards and the fact is it is an improvement, it’s just not the improvement that we had dreamed of.
“But it’s one step at a time. I don’t feel any negativity towards it. I’m grateful we have it. Partly, it’s because I understand how much work has gone into making these parts.
“The rush that has gone on, the amount of work, everyone is hugely flat out and really hungry to move the car in the right direction.
“So, I would say that I’m just hopeful that it puts us on a better track that can progress from here on.”
Mercedes’ immediate rivals Aston Martin and Ferrari will also unleash upgraded challengers in Barcelona, Ferrari believed to be unveiling the larger package of alterations out of the two, set to feature their own move away from a unique sidepod design like Mercedes did.
Hamilton said that the upgraded W14 would have been “quite close” for pace with those two rival challengers, so now Hamilton waits to see how effective they will be, nonetheless stating that he is “still hopeful that we can compete with them this weekend”, even if it is a “big hope”.