Worrying update on Mercedes progress after Spanish GP surge

Michelle Foster
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton at the Spanish Grand Prix. Barcelona, June 2023.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton at the Spanish Grand Prix. Barcelona, June 2023.

Andrew Shovlin has warned there won’t be any “any leaps and bounds” in Mercedes’ upgrades for the rest of this season as the team spent a significant portion of the budget cap on the new front suspension.

Having conceded at the beginning of the season that the car in its current specification probably won’t win a race, Mercedes introduced what almost amounted to a B-spec car at the Monaco Grand Prix.

But while all eyes were on the sidepods, Mercedes having axed their zero-pods in favour of a bulky downwash concept, the team has downplayed the impact those had on their double podium in Spain, insisting it’s a package deal and everything has to work together.

With their upgrades including a new floor as well as front suspension, Shovlin says the new-look car has given Mercedes more “freedom”.

“It’s about trying to play with these geometries to influence the aero platform and try to get a little more stability in the car,” he said as per the Italian edition of Motorsport.com.

“Probably the new geometry has given us more freedom, because the problem we always had before the last end race week was to get a good front end when cornering was needed and good stability on entry when braking hard and cornering.

“This compromise was always something we couldn’t fix. You always end up with a weak rear when entering or a poor front when exiting corners. So let’s hope that these new suspensions take us in the right direction.”

But it also came with a hefty price tag.

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With Formula 1 operating under a budget cap for the third season, Mercedes have already spent a significant portion on the revised car, most notably the front suspension layout.

“Basically we made a new suspension and suspension is expensive to make and to fit on the car,” he said, “so the reality is that with the budget cap, we are always looking at our situation in this World Championship.

“We don’t know how many things we’re going to do. I don’t expect to make any leaps and bounds.”

It was money that the Mercedes trackside engineering director felt was well spent.

“What we understand is that there is quite a rich development strand that we can start looking at,” he added. “So our programs are working.

“The challenge is always to get aerodynamics and vehicle dynamics to work together and optimised, and every team goes through that kind of process.

“But it’s about seeing where the opportunities are and how you can bring the two together so that they succeed to function as a single package.”

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has already noted the money spent by Mercedes on the car with the Briton saying it was “significant” but for very little gain.

“They’ve basically introduced a B version of their car,” he said after Spain. “They must have used a significant part of their development budget to do what they did.

“I think if I look at the gap at the end of the race it’s very similar to what there was between us in Bahrain.”