Mercedes in ‘sixth gear’ as Toto Wolff reveals key breakthrough in 2024 F1 struggles

Michelle Foster
Mercedes W15 front wing and nose assembly

Mercedes W15 front wing and nose assembly

Mercedes have identified “why” they are struggling to get lap time out of the W15 with Toto Wolff saying they’re in “sixth gear” to bring upgrades to the track to resolve the car’s issues.

Although the former World Champions overhauled their car in the winter, erasing the principles that created the foundations for their previous zero-pod concept, the all-new W15 has failed to live up to expectations.

Toto Wolff: I think we know what we do…

Yet to step onto the podium on a Grand Prix Sunday, Mercedes have fallen behind customer team McLaren as well as Ferrari to sit a distant fourth in the Constructors’ Championship.

While championship leaders Red Bull have 239 points on the board, Ferrari are second ahead of McLaren, both teams having won a race this season, and then comes Mercedes on 64 points.

Dealing with an inconsistent car that has performance swings between one session and the next, Wolff says it is “clear now” where and why Mercedes are struggling.

And his technical team are working “flat out” to bring upgrades to the track to resolve those issues.

“I think we understand much more what is needed to get the car in a better place because it’s so clear now what it does and why we struggle and where we struggle,” he said in Miami.

“In Formula 1 you can accelerate development and produce the beats and we’re flat out. The design office is all in. The production operations are flat out.

“The rest has been doing a good job. All of the factories are really in sixth gear in order to bring stuff to the car that we believe can be very helpful.”

“I think we know what we do,” he continued.

“In terms of what they’re bringing to the car, you can’t really rush it because you’ve got to get to the point where you say now it’s good to be released into production.

“And once that part comes, or once it’s come, they need to be sorted. So this is a matter of many weeks.”

More on Mercedes’ 2024 F1 struggles

👉Former Mercedes chief reveals where ‘wrong turns’ were taken in fall from dominance

👉George Russell shares update on Mercedes W15 upgrades with ‘quick’ action needed

Full Mercedes update package will debut in Imola

Having brought some upgrades to the track at the Miami Grand Prix, the team’s trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin says the second half of the package will be ready for this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola.

Although the team’s results in Miami weren’t what they’d hoped for as Lewis Hamilton finished sixth with George Russell P8, Shovlin insists they did work as expected. The result was more of a case of their rivals also taking a step forward.

“We managed to pull forward about half of our update kit to Miami and then the other half is going to arrive in Imola, and we are working hard on the future races to try and bring developments to them as well,” said Shovlin.

“Did it work as expected? Yes, it all looks like it is delivering the performance that we were hoping for from the floor.

“The issue at the moment is everyone else is developing their cars, so you saw McLaren with a big package and they look to have moved forward and also the handling issues that the drivers are having to battle with are making it hard to really see all that performance as a straight sort of step forward.

“What we tend to find is that the car from session to session can behave quite differently and until we get on top of that, we are always going to blunt the benefit that we can get from these type of updates.

“But after the last few races, we have got now a very clear idea of what we need to do to the car to get it handling a bit more easily for the drivers, making sure it goes where they want it to go when they are on those important qualifying laps.

“And we have also got quite a good sort of thread of updates that will be coming over the next three or four races. A lot of hard work is going on, but hopefully we will start to see the fruits of that soon.”

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