What performance is missing from the Mercedes W15? The four key areas to address

Henry Valantine
Mercedes W15 driven by Lewis Hamilton.

Mercedes have started the season in the mix, but not for podiums or wins for now.

Mercedes had hoped the W15 would be the car to propel them back into title contention in 2024 but, on early evidence, the car is not quite up to the standards set by Red Bull and Ferrari.

While far from being a slow car – the Silver Arrows seemingly in a tight battle with McLaren and Aston Martin in the top half of the field – early performance does not match the team’s ambitions for the car so far. With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at what several key figures from the team have had to say about the car this season, to gain insight into which areas they may be lacking performance to date.

Which areas need addressing on the Mercedes W15 on early evidence?

High-speed cornering

Probably the main area of concern that’s been highlighted on the W15 so far.

When Lewis Hamilton was battling Lando Norris in particular in Jeddah last time out, the amount of time the McLaren was gaining in the high-speed first sector was such that the seven-time World Champion likened it to racing in a “different category” to him.

“I mean, the car is good in the low speed and not so bad in the medium, but in the high speed we are miles off,” Hamilton explained to Sky Sports F1 after the chequered flag.

“The guys were…it was like I was in a different category when I was going through the high speed between the other people, the other guys around me.

“So it’s frustrating for sure to be three years in a row in almost the same position. Or it’s definitely tough, but we’ll get our heads down and we’ll keep working away, and I know everyone back at the factory is pushing as hard as they can, but we’ve definitely got to make some big changes.

“You know, we haven’t made big enough changes perhaps. You look at the three teams ahead of us, they still have different concepts to where we are in some areas so we’ve got some performance to add, that’s for sure.”


Linked to the car’s issues in high-speed corners has been a lack of rear-end stability for the drivers, with both Hamilton and George Russell enduring snaps of oversteer that make it difficult to trust the car when they need to.

“We’ve got a quick car, but it is on a knife’s edge,” Toto Wolff explained after qualifying in Saudi Arabia. “The drivers are struggling to squeeze out the lap consistently.

“George was on his way to a strong lap and could have been fighting for spots on the second row. Unfortunately he lost the rear of the car.

“Lewis meanwhile never had the feedback from the car that he wanted, and that meant he couldn’t go faster.”


Further than simply putting on a bigger rear wing to add downforce to the W15, Wolff was candid in admitting the W15 is naturally lacking on that front compared to their faster rivals, making high-speed corners the main area in which the team are losing out.

“I think there’s a bigger factor with lacking high speed than just a rear wing, we’re missing downforce beyond the steps that you will have with a bigger rear wing,” Wolff explained in Saudi Arabia.

“We tried it on Lewis, they have something which we don’t understand because we are quick everywhere else pretty much.

“We know that when we have a smaller rear wing we are compensating what we’re losing through the corners, but it’s just the high speed variant where we’re losing all the lap time.”


For Mercedes fans whose hearts just sank with flashbacks to 2022 and the bouncing W13, don’t panic too much here.

While porpoising has largely been eradicated throughout the grid, Mercedes have mentioned that bouncing has made something of a return in the opening two rounds of 2024.

Though not to the same degree, it will be something the team will look to settle sooner rather than later.

Mercedes’ trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said in the team’s post-Saudi Arabia debrief: “In qualifying we were also suffering a bit with the bouncing. Now, that was less of a problem in the race – there’s more fuel on the car, you’re going a bit slower, and that seemed to calm down and wasn’t such an issue.”

Russell explained that their pace deficit to those in front goes beyond a bouncing car too, saying to reporters in Jeddah: “I think there’s more to it. They’re so complex these days, these cars are so complicated – the tyres are very difficult as well. Right now we don’t have the answers.”

When asked about the car bouncing in Bahrain, Hamilton believes the problem goes beyond Mercedes, replying to media including PlanetF1.com: “No, I think everyone’s [car] is bottoming, so I think the ride height was good.”

But there was a worsening of the problem in Saudi Arabia, with Hamilton telling Sky F1 a week later: “We’ve tried every setup change, we can’t get rid of it.

“It’s difficult to explain it, but we had some bouncing in Bahrain, but nowhere near as intense as here.

“But that first sector, super high-speed, a lot of lateral load and the bouncing really offsets the car quite a bit. If you imagine when the car goes up and down at the back, your balance shifts forwards and rewards. If you’re doing that at 160, 170 miles an hour, correcting that each time…

“Max [Verstappen] is flat through [turns] 6, 7, 8 and the balance is just stable. And that’s what we’re working towards. We’ve got to fix it, it’s three years in a row. We’ve got to get on top of it.”

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After the engine cooling issue that troubled both of their cars as well as power unit customers Williams in Bahrain, Mercedes appeared to quickly get on top of that by the time Saudi Arabia came around.

In addition, both Hamilton and Russell have been complimentary about the car from the off this season, both drivers saying the starting point of the W15 is a better one than the last two seasons.

Asked if he was feeling downbeat after the Bahrain Grand Prix, Russell replied to media including PlanetF1.com: “No, definitely not. I mean, for Lewis and I, at least, we’ve definitely got a much better car this year, one I do believe we can build from.”

Hamilton was similarly effusive after qualifying in Sakhir, although that came with the caveat of needing to find more pace, explaining to media including PlanetF1.com: “The car is really fantastic. It’s really a real big improvement from previous years. A lot more stable, a lot more fun to drive, but we still have work to do, as you can see.”

Where high-speed cornering has been a weakness, low-speed performance has been highlighted as a strength of the W15 – and adding performance in quicker corners would add to the package.

“There are positives,” Hamilton said in Jeddah. “The car is good in low speed, we have to add a lot of load in the high speed.

“I think if we were able to do that then I think it puts us in the fight, but we’ve got some work to do.”

There are always solutions that are being worked on back at the team’s factory, and the first step will be in Melbourne this weekend when the team gets back out on track.

“There’s definitely data that we’re picking through from Jeddah,” Shovlin said.

“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 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.”

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