Mercedes make major upgrade admission as dominant Red Bull power on

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen (Red Bull) leads Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

Max Verstappen (Red Bull) leads Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin has admitted the team may find it a “stretch” to replicate the gains McLaren have made with their recent upgrades.

Having struggled to score consistent points in the early months of the 2023 season, McLaren have enjoyed a dramatic upturn in performance in recent weeks thanks to an aggressive upgrade strategy.

Having qualified on the front row, Lando Norris claimed the team’s first podium since April 2022 at the British Grand Prix with rookie team-mate Oscar Piastri confirming McLaren’s step forward with fourth place.

Mercedes not confident of McLaren-like step forward

While McLaren have suddenly leapt up the order, Mercedes have demonstrated only marginal progress since introducing a major upgrade – including a more conventional sidepod design and anti-dive suspension – in Monaco at the end of May.

The eight-time Constructors’ Champions continued their recovery with the arrival of a new front wing at Silverstone, but remain some way short of the dominant Red Bull team, winners of all 10 races held so far in 2023.

Speaking in the teams’ representatives press conference ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian GP, Shovlin paid tribute to the progress made by McLaren and fellow Mercedes customers Aston Martin in 2023 – but is not convinced that his team could gain half a second in a single upgrade step.

He said: “It’s encouraging because we know that the engine’s obviously doing a good job in those cars. We’re working hard to try and move forward.

“I think the step McLaren made was pretty impressive. You can see that they’ve changed a fair bit on their car. But for us, we do need to close that gap to Red Bull. We’re still developing the car.

“Whether or not we could find the half a second that they look to have found, I don’t know. That’d be a stretch target.”

Shovlin is adamant that Mercedes are heading in the right direction, but pointed to Aston Martin’s recent loss of form as an example of how fluid the 2023 development race is.

He explained: “The gains change track to track. The front end of the car is a bit more coherent, a bit stronger now, so we’re having to work to balance that.

“But it does look to have gone in the right direction and our correlation over the last year has been strong in that we make bits and we race them, we’re not putting kits on and off trying to decide whether we’ve done the right thing.

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“However, look at where Aston Martin were at the start of the year and then where they’ve been in some of the recent races. That’s only because other people are developing very quickly. It’s difficult to gauge the progress when you just look at how the teams stack up. But the fact is, you can see those moves where people do bring updates.

“We just need to work to try and improve the development rate but the focus for us is making sure we can challenge Red Bull or whoever it is at the front next year.

“So it’s a case of balancing that bigger goal with what we can do on this car and also learning with this car because if you don’t change the car, you don’t learn a lot. So a lot of the development is about learning for the future.”

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