Mercedes reveal ‘major focus’ on W15 with renewed ‘hope’ for Australian Grand Prix

Thomas Maher
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Toto Wolff is hopeful his team have started to make steps of progress with the Mercedes W15.

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff has explained why his team is hopeful of having made some progress in unlocking more performance from the W15.

Mercedes has had a slightly underwhelming start to the 2024 season, despite the W15 being greeted with far more enthusiasm by the drivers after the troubles of the past two seasons.

Toto Wolff: Encouraging to see Mercedes W15 potential

While the W15 may be a far nicer car to drive, with both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell indicating their satisfaction with the steps made over the winter, Mercedes appears to have remained roughly in the same position in the pecking order.

With Red Bull still out in front, Ferrari biting at their heels, it’s Mercedes in the group with McLaren and Aston Martin fighting over the best of the rest – not too dissimilar a position from last season.

From the first two races, Russell has finished in fifth and sixth in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, respectively, with Hamilton coming home in seventh and ninth.

Mercedes currently occupy fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, two points behind McLaren, but Toto Wolff is hopeful identified weaknesses can be addressed promptly and allow the team to make progress towards the front.

“We’ve been hard at work since Jeddah building on the learnings from the first two races,” he said in his team’s preview of the Australian Grand Prix.

“It’s encouraging to see the potential in the W15 but there are also clear areas of improvement.

“We have looked competitive in low and medium-speed corners but high-speed has been a weakness so far.

“We have been working hard to understand why our performance hasn’t reflected our expectations. Improving that is a major focus.

“We hope to make some initial progress for Melbourne, and that work will guide our development in the weeks ahead. It’s great to feel the energy and determination running through the factories as we work to unlock the potential of the car.”

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Andrew Shovlin: Mercedes analysing data from first races

The Albert Park circuit in Melbourne, thanks to recent track changes, is another high-speed venue, albeit not quite as scary as the Jeddah Corniche.

It was in Jeddah that Mercedes encountered the infamous ‘bouncing’ that has blighted previous campaigns, despite the radical departure from the previous design direction – something that’s led Wolff to concede correlation issues may be behind their struggles in low-downforce, high-speed scenarios.

“I can see from the sensors that we have what we need,” he said.

“But there is still this behaviour of the car in a certain speed range that the sensors and simulation say this is where we should have the downforce and we are not having it.

“This team has not been overconfident. We were probably the other way around and see the glass half empty always. That is the attitude to fix it.

“It’s more a fundamental thing, that we believe that the speed should be there. We measure the downforce but we don’t find it in lap time.”

Mercedes’ Andrew Shovlin said, that back in Brackley, the team is poring through data to figure out what is being missed with the W15.

“There’s definitely data that we’re picking through from Jeddah,” the engineer explained.

“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 the 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.”

While the W15’s weakness has been exposed by having some very high-speed tracks early on in the season, Wolff’s confidence the team will get on top of it means optimism that nailing a full weekend will result in a much stronger result.

“We left points on the table in both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“We started off each weekend strongly, running our usual practice programmes, but couldn’t deliver on that initial promise.

“With the chasing pack being so close, maximising the potential of the car each weekend is key. Albert Park gives us another chance to show what we can do. It is a great circuit in a great city, with a passionate and vocal fan base, and we look forward to returning.”

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