Mystery surrounds Mercedes upgrades ahead of Monaco Grand Prix
Formula 1 press conference host Tom Clarkson believes there are two possible, and conflicting, reasons behind Mercedes’ decision to introduce a major upgrade package at this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.
Having committed to a change of design philosophy after a bruising weekend at the season opener in Bahrain, Mercedes had been expected to debut a heavily revised W14 car at the Emilia Romagna GP earlier this month.
However, the race was cancelled due to extreme weather in the area surrounding the Imola circuit in northern Italy.
The loss of the Imola race has had knock-on effects for teams’ upgrade plans, with Ferrari one of a number of outfits set to delay the arrival of new parts until next month’s Spanish GP in Barcelona, a race where sizeable updates would traditionally arrive in years gone by.
Yet Mercedes remain committed to fielding their upgrade in Monte Carlo, a potentially brave move given the obvious risks associated with street circuits.
Appearing on the F1 Nation podcast, Clarkson believes the decision has either been driven by a confidence within Mercedes that the upgrade will bring major gains – or, with just a single podium finish from the first five races, the team have become desperate to get their 2023 season back on track.
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He said: “I’m really interested that Mercedes are bringing these upgrades to Monaco, because the obvious thing to do is to do what Ferrari are doing and just delay everything a week.
“Because there are so many risks associated with Monaco. Look at the mistakes drivers have made over the years.
“You can just glance a barrier ever so slightly and that can put you out of the race, or it can damage an upgrade.
“So the fact that Mercedes are bringing these upgrades I think can mean one of two things.
“Is it because they have seen on the simulator that it is so much faster, that we just have to bring them because it’s worth half a second lap?
“Or is it a sign of desperation? ‘We’re not sure – and the sooner we find out with some on-track running, the better!’
“It could be either of those things.”
Clarkson feels there will be a greater emphasis than usual on Lewis Hamilton and George Russell to keep it clean in Monaco, claiming the track will at least offer Mercedes the chance to gain a basic understanding of the upgrade.
“The good thing is that they’ve got two very reliable drivers,” he added.
“So if there’s two drivers that you would expect not to put it in the wall at Monaco, it is Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
“But there are huge risks associated with them bringing [the upgrade] and I’m intrigued to see how it goes.
“We’re not going to see the pace of the car through faster corners, because there are none at Monaco.
“It will allow them to make sure that they’ve got basic things like the cooling correct, of course.”