Mercedes double down on ‘fundamental’ W15 issue concerns as ‘experiments’ planned

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton driving the Mercedes W15 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton driving the Mercedes W15.

Mercedes’ trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said the limitations of the W15 in qualifying and race trim in Saudi Arabia showed there is “something more fundamental” to fix as they ready “experiments” in a bid to do so.

Mercedes went back to the drawing board for their F1 2024 challenger, the W15, hoping to at least unlock the secrets for a title challenge in Formula 1’s ground effect era, having accepted that they previously went down the wrong route with their unique ‘zeropod’ philosophy.

‘Something more fundamental’ to fix with Mercedes W15

But it has been a rough start to the season for Mercedes, George Russell’s P5 at the Bahrain season-opener their best result across the opening two rounds, with P6 the best Russell could manage in Saudi Arabia, while for Lewis Hamilton it was P9.

Speaking as part of Mercedes’ post-Saudi Arabian Grand Prix debrief, Shovlin recalled the way that the W15 setup for Russell and Hamilton evolved over the race weekend, though when asked what learnings they took from this, Shovlin said it was that “something more fundamental” is behind their struggles than simply a spring that is not optimised.

Concerningly, this mirrors the words of team principal Toto Wolff, who said this required “fundamental” change to unlock the true potential of Mercedes machinery has been chased for “two years” now.

“It’s quite rare that we run the two cars identically,” said Shovlin. “We actually started fairly similar. So, the balance wouldn’t have been too different through the speed range.

“The drivers then gave us their feedback after the FP1 session. And at that point they then went off in different directions. Now some of that was they’d complained about bouncing. So, we were looking at ways of trying to improve that. You can play with ride heights, you can play with stiffness and that all seems effective.

“And also they were just trying to tune the balance through the speed range. So what’s the car like in the low speed? What’s it like in the high speed? Now the balance that we had in that session probably wasn’t as good as FP1. And from there on, we started to converge back in the general direction of where we came from arriving there.

“But the learning of it is just that when you change things you can see the differences. So one car making changes, you can see how it performs run to run. We can also look at the global performance of the two cars but fundamentally the limitations that we had in qualifying and the race, they were broadly the same for both.

“So it’s telling you it’s not a small difference, it’s not a tiny bit of camber or a spring or bar here and there. It’s something more fundamental that we need to dig into and understand.” recommends

F1 2024: Head-to-head qualifying record between team-mates

F1 2024: Head-to-head race statistics between team-mates

Formula 1 has its first in-season free weekend coming up before returning to action at Albert Park for the Australian Grand Prix, Shovlin revealing that the aerodynamics and vehicle dynamics departments are looking to cook up some “experiments” in the effort to extract more performance from the W15.

Asked if Mercedes’ learnings from Jeddah can be integrated into their Australian Grand Prix preparations, Shovlin replied: “Yeah. There’s definitely data that we’re picking through from Jeddah. We’re also looking at data from the Bahrain race, Bahrain test and we will come up with a plan for how we approach free practice in Melbourne.

“But it’s not just based on what we did in Jeddah. There’s a lot of work going on within aerodynamics department, vehicle dynamics department. We’re trying to design some experiments there that will hopefully give us a direction that’s good for performance.”

Mercedes has not tasted Formula 1 victory since George Russell won the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix.

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