McLaren ‘Adrian Newey’ breakthrough claim made in damning Mercedes W15 update verdict

Michelle Foster
Mercedes Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris

Mercedes and Aston Martin brought upgrades to the Miami GP

Although much has been said about McLaren’s Miami upgrades, Mercedes also introduced new parts for the American race “that don’t work”, at least not initially, says Damon Hill.

Last time out in Miami, McLaren drew first blood in F1 2024’s development race as the Woking team put 10 new parts on Lando Norris’ MCL38 with the Briton taking the race win ahead of Max Verstappen.

‘When you’ve got teams like Mercedes bringing upgrades that don’t work…’

Mercedes also upgraded their W15, although it was only half of the package with the rest to come at Imola, but they finished sixth and eighth with Lewis Hamilton ahead of George Russell.

This weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at the Imola circuit will see several teams update their cars including Red Bull and Ferrari, the latter said to be putting a Red Bull-styled ‘2.0’ car on the track.

Mercedes will also debut their full package.

However, Hill says Mercedes’ past upgrades in Formula 1’s ground-effect aerodynamic era show that upgrading a car doesn’t always do the trick.

“We’ve seen people bring upgrades and have difficulty, haven’t we?” he said on the F1 Nation podcast.

“We’ve seen them bringing upgrades in and actually it doesn’t work at first time out, they’ve had to fine-tune their set-up.”

He added: “When you’ve got teams like Mercedes bringing upgrades that don’t work when they put them on then it tells you it’s not always a panacea to everything, it’s not the thing that they’ve been looking for until they’ve got time to do it and understand it and that takes maybe more than one race.”

More on Red Bull and Ferrari’s Imola upgrades

👉Adrian Newey’s ‘seven race’ RB20 promise set to come true at Imola

👉Ferrari warned as details of Red Bull ‘copy’ revealed with highly-anticipated SF-24 ‘2.0’

McLaren’s development trajectory could rattle Red Bull

Mercedes’ struggles included axing their zero-pod concept early last season, although even that did not yield the performance gains they’d hoped.

It was in sharp contrast to McLaren’s 2023 Austrian Grand Prix upgrade, the team putting a B-spec car on the grid and immediately knocking on the door of the podium.

The most improved team on the grid after that, the Woking team showed again with their Miami upgrades that they have an “Adrian Newey and Red Bull” level of understanding of the new generation of cars.

“Isn’t that the most impressive thing about McLaren?” said Tom Clarkson. “That ever since they brought upgrades to the Austrian Grand Prix last year everything they’ve put on that car has made it better.

“They completely understand this generation of cars now in the way that Adrian Newey and Red Bull do. And that is what is so encouraging for everybody in Woking.”

Hill replied: “Also they did something really bold because they threw their original car in the bin effectively the concept of it, and they went ‘okay, this is not the way we need to do this, we need to revert to something we think it’s got more potential.

“And since they’ve done that, they’ve built on that time and time again and actually caught up. Their rate of progress, I think has to be the fastest in F1 since maybe the middle of last year.

“Their rate of progress in development in terms of lap time gained, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re the one on the steepest curve going forward.

“So that has to be a little bit concerning for Red Bull because if that trajectory continues, obviously it gets more difficult the closer you get to the optimum, but their rate of progress has been phenomenal.”

The 1996 World Champion reckons if McLaren continue their upward trajectory, they’ll start to rattle Verstappen and Red Bull.

“If they carried on that route,” he continued, “it was always inevitable that they would win a race but for them to be super confident they will have to out-qualify the Red Bulls, get pole position and then lead the race getting the fastest lap and then we’ll hear more of Max’s complaining about understeer.

“He did not like the fact that he couldn’t catch up Lando. We haven’t seen that this year when he’s had to push. What does the car do? What is the limit? I think Miami showed somewhere there is a limit.”

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