Mercedes to launch ‘ambitious’ F1 sprint plan with Miami GP upgrades confirmed

Thomas Maher
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2024 Chinese Grand Prix.

Mercedes won't be repeating their Chinese GP setup error between races this weekend in Miami.

Having gone the wrong direction with set-up in China, Mercedes will be going all guns blazing into the Miami Sprint.

The change of parc ferme regulations for 2024 allows the teams to make set-up changes between the Sprint race and the Grand Prix qualifying, which backfired for Mercedes in China.

Mercedes learn valuable lesson from Chinese GP Sprint

Having qualified and raced to second place in the Chinese GP Sprint, Lewis Hamilton found himself down in 18th place in qualifying before racing to ninth.

This was after Mercedes opted to go in a different set-up direction following the Sprint, targeting more performance, only for the move to backfire as the car’s performance took a blow.

In previous years of the Sprint format, this wouldn’t have been possible – the parc ferme regulations meant car set-ups were locked in place from after first practice, with the teams not permitted to make changes at any point thereafter in a weekend.

China marked the first weekend of the new regulations and, having been bitten by having their changes backfire at the Shanghai International Circuit, Mercedes’ technical director James Allison said a valuable lesson has been learned for this weekend’s Sprint format in Miami.

“Every weekend you go to, you learn things,” Allison said in the team’s debrief of the China weekend.

“It’s one of the truisms of F1, it is a learning race and although you have a factory full of tools, you have a load of computational power, a load of people who are thinking about it, there is no place to learn about the car better than with the car at the track doing what it’s designed to do. 

“We head from China, one of the most famously front-limited circuits to Miami, a track that is more in the rear limited end of the spectrum and our challenge will be to make sure we don’t try and replay China at a Miami that is a very, very different beast and wants different things from the car than China will.”

The tangible response to the lesson learned is to flip the script – try the more drastic set-up experiment for the less consequential Sprint running.

“We face the enjoyment of another sprint weekend with this second go of having two bites of the cherry and we definitely learnt during this weekend that if you’re going to be ambitious, be ambitious in the sprint race and then tune it down for the main race rather than the opposite way around,” he said.

“Hopefully we’ll land a car in a better place, that the upgrades that we’re going to bring to Miami serve us well in a grid that in qualifying at least is really close, around the part of the battle we’re fighting a few hundredths can make a difference sometimes and a couple of tenths would make all the difference in the world. 

“So looking forward to seeing how that all plays out.”

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Mercedes rolls out fresh updates for the W15 in Miami, and Allison said he’s hopeful it will allow the team to make a step forward in performance.

“That’s of course the challenge that we face in the coming races is to try and move both the setup of the car and also the pieces that we bring to the car so that that’s improved,” he said.

“We’ve got upgrade packages coming to the car but also components that we hope will rectify the underlying balance that is causing us difficulty.

“Much as it’s painful to talk in this way after a weekend like this, I just have to remember that there’ll be races in the future when we’ve executed those things, when we’re back more on the front foot and when we’re progressing where the pleasure of talking about it will be massive and that day can’t come soon enough.”

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