Mercedes have have found no “major problems” with the heavily revised W14 car that ran for the first time in the opening practice session at the Monaco Grand Prix.
The eight-time constructors’ Champions were forced to admit they had pursued the wrong car concept at the 2023 season opener in Bahrain, where Lewis Hamilton and George Russell qualified six tenths off pole position.
With team boss Toto Wolff promising sweeping changes, a heavily revised car was originally set to appear for the first time at the cancelled Emilia Romagna GP, with the major upgrade debuting on Friday in Monte Carlo instead.
While Russell was a disappointing 1.7 seconds off the pace in 15th, seven-time World Champion Hamilton was competitive throughout the hour-long FP1 session.
His quickest lap of 1:14.035 was good enough for third place on the timesheet and was faster than Red Bull drivers Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen, the only two men to win a race in 2023.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1’s Ted Kravitz at the conclusion of the session, Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin admitted the new-look W14 has made an encouraging start.
He said: “It’s difficult to say at this stage in the weekend. We haven’t seen major problems, which is a useful start to it.
“We were doing some comparisons on setup across the car, so I think we’ve got a good direction there. Lewis clearly looked to be in a happier place than George, we’ll just go and pick through that data.
“But one of the tricky bits with Monaco is the track evolves so much. It’s one thing getting your car in a decent spot for FP1, you’ve got to keep it there through FP2, FP3 into quali. That’s a lot easier said than done.
“So, good start but we’re certainly wary of the many, many ways that you can get Monaco wrong.”
Shovlin said Mercedes’ goal is to establish the right compromise for the unique Monaco circuit and to instil confidence in both drivers following the contrasting fortunes for Hamilton and Russell.
And he is pleased that Mercedes have managed to build such a radically different car so soon after an eye-opening start to the season in Bahrain.
He said: “To be honest, the floor is what the floor is; the suspension is what that is. We’re just playing with the normal setup parameters here.
“The fact is you don’t go and design a car for Monaco. You design it for your Silverstones and your Barcelonas, so the challenge is always how do you take that car design for another circuit and get it to work around this slow, bumpy, very tight, twisty track.
“So that’s what we’re going to be looking at and it’s just that compromise. The bumps are bad so it’s very difficult for ride. It makes you want to go soft, but the nature of these regulations is the cars do work better somewhere close to the ground.
“So what we need to explore now is all those compromises, try and find the right place.
“Monaco is about confidence for the driver. Lewis had that this morning, George didn’t, so really just working on the tweaks that’ll bring that.
“We’re very much in the situation of looking at the car that we’ve brought here and thinking: ‘We would have done that differently. If we were doing it again, we’d have done this differently.’
“If you start with a clean sheet, it’s a lot easier to optimise than if you’re halfway through your development and suddenly you make a pretty big change.
“So the positive of that is we’ve got a big long list of things we’d like to do that we know will bring performance, but it was a really impressive job to get all this stuff to what now [is] race six. That was a really good job by everyone at the factory.”