‘Unless two wrongs somehow make a right’ – Mercedes could struggle in China says F1 analyst

Michelle Foster
George Russell, Mercedes, 2024 Japanese Grand Prix.

George Russell up close in action

Having previously highlighted their correlation issues, Bernie Collins believes Mercedes could be in for a difficult weekend as F1 returns to China for the first time in five years.

Formula 1 is, to a certain degree, stepping into the unknown ahead of its return to the Shanghai International Circuit having last visited China back in 2019, before the pandemic swept the globe.

‘Unless two wrongs somehow make a right and you ace the set-up’

As such the new generation of cars have never completed a lap of the circuit, one that is expected to be very green, while for Pirelli’s latest edition of compounds this too is a new adventure.

Throw in a Sprint weekend where the teams will have just one practice hour before Sprint qualifying, and the teams will need to rely heavily on their simulation tools back at their factories.

For Mercedes that hasn’t been the most reliable source of information when it comes to setting up their W15.

Revealing what they’ve found in the simulation data has not translated to the track, Toto Wolff called it a “fundamental” correlation issue.

And it’s one former Aston Martin strategist Collins is worried could trip Mercedes up this weekend.

“Mercedes were really unhappy with the car and there was a lot of discussion that their simulation wasn’t working correctly. So how they’re assimilating the car reacts to certain changes, to certain environments,” said the Sky Sports analyst.

“That’s not great if you’re going into a new race or if you’re going into a race with a lot of unknowns.

“If you are struggling to simulate a race that you’ve been to four times in the last four years, then it’s not great for one that you’ve not been to either, unless two wrongs somehow make a right and you ace the set-up.”

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Shanghai International Circuit will ‘play to Ferrari’s strengths’

One team, though, that can look forward to a good weekend in China is Ferrari.

According to Collins, the Shanghai International Circuit will play to the SF-24’s strengths although it may be more of a case of “closing the gap” to Red Bull, than beating them.

“It’s got two massive straights, the one on the start-finish straight and the one sort of immediately before that,” she explained. “And a lot of the corners, even though it might not be obvious in the track map, but turn one, two, they are very low speed corners, like 60mph.

“So very low speed corners, and there’s quite a few of those in the track. So you tend to have big straight, big braking zone, another big straight, big braking zone. There’s a few corners that are high speed sort of in the sector 2 region, but not a lot.

“So it’s very, very different to Suzuka. Japan only had really two slow speed corners. Now we’ve got mainly slow speed corners and a lot of long straights. So it’s going to be about straight-line speed of the car, much, much more than what it had been previously and how good the cars are on that low speed.

“I think it will play to Ferrari’s strengths. There’s a chance that Ferrari will have closed the gap a little bit to Red Bull and maybe taken a little step away from McLaren.”

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