Mercedes insider’s concerning W15 verdict as ‘not exactly the same’ issues revealed

Michelle Foster
Fred Vesti and the Mercedes W15

Fred Vesti and the Mercedes W15

Mercedes’ problems with the W15 are not “exactly the same” as with last year, instead they could’ve “introduced” others while trying to eradicate the W14’s issues.

That’s the opinion of reserve driver Frederic Vesti after the team’s disappointing result at the Chinese Grand Prix.

‘By fixing one problem, you might introduce another one’

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton finished on the podium in the Sprint at the Shanghai circuit, beaten to the chequered flag by Max Verstappen who overtook him on the track.

Even in his joy over his podium, the Briton tried to curtail expectations as he admitted “had I started further back I would have struggled to progress” while conceding that “of course” Mercedes could not fight Red Bull.

However, no one, not even Hamilton, foresaw what was coming next as a mistake at the Turn 14 hairpin, ironically the place where he was overtaken by Verstappen in the Sprint, meant he qualified down in 18th place, falling at the very first hurdle in qualifying.

He rebounded to finish ninth in the Grand Prix while his team-mate George Russell raced from eighth on the grid to sixth at the chequered flag.

It was by no means the result Mercedes had hoped for as Formula 1 raced in Shanghai after a five-year hiatus.

The result was par for the course in a season in which Mercedes have not made the gains they’d hoped for with their heavily revised W15.

Asked by Tom Clarkson if Mercedes’ issues are the same as last year’s, reserve driver Vesti told the F1 Nation podcast: “I wouldn’t say they’re exactly the same as last year.

“Obviously, by fixing one problem, you might introduce another one, it can happen and I’m not entirely sure if that’s what’s happened.

“But for sure, it’s a problem with the car and it needs to improve.

“Both the race team and the drivers are chasing that lap time, that’s why a mistake like Lewis made in quali happens when the car is not fast enough because you need to overdrive it, you need to try to squeeze everything out of it to maximise the lap. And that can be a problem for a driver.”

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Mercedes ”determined to go back to the glory days’

Mercedes, though, are determined to fight back says the 22-year-old Dane.

The Brackley squad last fought for a World title in 2021 while their last Grand Prix win came a year later in Brazil when George Russell led Hamilton home in a Mercedes 1-2.

Vesti says Mercedes want to get back to yesteryear’s “glory days” when they were the ones dominating Formula 1.

“I think the team is determined to go back to the glory days where they were P1 in qualy, P1 in race and dominating the field,” he said.

“But I think everyone recognises that it takes a lot of work as well. I’m a reserve and sim driver, I know how much work we need to put in. And I feel that as well, the engineers feel that, and everyone at the factory.

“Of course, it’s tough when you have high expectations and the car is not delivering.

“But at the same time, the team is united, and we’re ready to work really, really hard to see upgrades coming this year, but also looking ahead.”

Touching on Hamilton’s Chinese GP weekend in particular, Vesti reckons it was “frustrating” for the seven-time World Champion as he went from the podium in the Sprint to being eliminated in qualifying.

“It was a bit up and down, a bit frustrating because the Sprint race was optimistic, he was leading, he finished second eventually,” he said. “But then yeah, the qualifying was tough for him.

“A lock up in Turn, 14, definitely missed out on going into Q2, and I will say he had the pace to be actually in Q3. So it was a big mistake and unfortunately that put him on the back of the grid.

“And then in Sunday’s race he got to P9 but definitely not happy with the car. And that just highlights it needs to improve to get more performance out of it.”

As for Russell, who kept the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz behind him in the early laps after overhauling both Ferraris at the start, Vesti appreciated that show of fighting spirit.

“That’s the mentality you need as a driver when you’re fighting for P1 or P6, it’s important to show that you are willing to fight for points,” he said. “As a team that’s really what you want to see from your driver as well.”

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