Mercedes discover W15 ‘clue’ with key set-up clarification confirmed

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton struggled with the handling of his Mercedes during free practice for the 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

Disappointed with a double DNF in Australia, James Allison says it wasn’t a pointless weekend for Mercedes as their Saturday performances gave them “some clues” on how to improve the W15 in future races.

Neither Lewis Hamilton nor George Russell scored a point in Australia as both drivers retired while fighting for minor points.

Emerging pattern gives Mercedes ‘some clues’

It was a difficult weekend for the team with Hamilton the more vocal of the team-mates as he complained about the car’s inconsistency.

Going from “one of the worst” sessions on Friday where he was down in 18th place to “great” in Saturday’s final practice where he was less than a tenth of a second off the pace, the Briton found himself knocked out of qualifying in Q2.

Down in 11th place, Hamilton was eight-tenths off the P1 time while Russell snuck through into the pole position shoot-out with the 10th fastest time.

He qualified seventh fastest with his deficit to pole-sitter Max Verstappen sitting at eight-tenths of a second.

Neither driver would go on to score a point in the Grand Prix as Hamilton retired on lap 17 with an engine failure before Russell crashed on the penultimate lap as he battled Fernando Alonso for sixth place.

But despite not getting the result they wanted, the Australian Grand Prix was not a pointless weekend for Mercedes as technical director Allison says it gave them “some clues” to help them in the future.

Explaining that, he said in Mercedes’ Australian GP debrief: “Almost no set-up changes occurred between FP3 and qualifying.

“We take fuel out of course, we turn the engine up to 11, all those things. But no significant difference on set-up because we felt we got the car in a decent window in FP3 and that was reflected in the timesheets.

“But we are starting to see a pattern emerge that most weekends we have a period in the weekend where we are feeling good about the car, confident about the car, but then in the paying sessions, in qualifying and the race, that slips through our fingers.

“If we were trying to draw that pattern together then probably the strongest correlation that we can make at the moment, is that our competitiveness drops when the track is warm, when the day is at its warmest and therefore the tyre temperatures rise with those of the track.

“The times when we have been at our best have been all in the sessions which are the coolest and so that gives us some clues about what we need to do as we move forward from here.

“But from FP3 to qualifying in Melbourne there was not a set-up change.” recommends

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The updated Drivers’ and Constructors’ standings after the Australian GP

‘It can be either quick and dirty or a little more involved’

Going forward, it’s a case of using that information to widen the working window for the W15 although Allison concedes it’s not a quick fix.

“It is better defined in terms of the amount of time that will take,” he said.

“If you know what you’re shooting for, if you’ve sort of identified correctly an accurate assessment of why our competitiveness waxes and wanes, then you can work into the weekend a program that is dedicated toward trying to move the temperature and the temperature balance front to rear in your favour and using all the conventional set-up tools on the car.

“That work you can do back here in the factory and the simulation and so on.

“But if you conclude having exhausted the degrees of freedom that you have available to you in set-up terms that you still need to go further, well then that gets harder at that point because that will be that there are underlying characteristics in say the aerodynamic map that you’ve engineered or the suspension characteristic that is aggravating that particular feature, and in order to make it really heal up nicely then you would have to change those underlying features.

“It can be either quick and dirty or a little more involved and a bit more complicated.”

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