George Russell, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2023

Mercedes left scratching heads by lack of performance at Austrian GP

2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton said his Mercedes was “just slow” during last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix. “It wasn’t particularly hard, just slow.”

After podium finishes in the previous two races, Hamilton was disappointed to start fifth and fall to seventh on the road – before a track limits penalty dropped him to eighth.

“I definitely didn’t expect to be as bad as we were,” he admitted after the race. “I don’t really have an answer for it.

“But the feeling of the car was very much the same as the feeling I’ve had all last year, so in that respect it’s not the biggest surprise.”

It was Hamilton’s worst result since last year’s season finale in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where a hydraulics system sent him into retirement from fourth place. George Russell, who inherited seventh after his team mate Hamilton’s penalty, was also puzzled by their slump in Austria.

“The pace was really not where we expected it to be,” said Russell. “There’s a lot to understand because we took a big step backwards.

[Lando Norris] and McLaren were a big surprise for us. They clearly got it right. We have a fast car in certain circumstances and we just need to understand why we didn’t this weekend.”

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Russell suspect Mercedes’ drop in pace was due to a combination of the particular challenges of the Red Bull Ring and the limited time to prepare due to the sprint race format.

“I think it’s just getting the right balance,” said Russell. “It’s a very different type of circuit compared to one like Barcelona, which we excelled at.

“Silverstone is going to be an interesting one for us, as it’s clearly circuit-dependent. These sprint races are very challenging if you don’t hit the ground running, and we clearly didn’t. The pace wasn’t good on Friday, we knew it was off the pace in the long run.

“Had it been a normal weekend, maybe the result would have been different.”

Mercedes’ team principal Toto Wolff confirmed that the lack of race pace was visible from practice on Friday, and admitted the team “couldn’t make the car quick.”

“It was a bruising day,” he told media including RaceFans. “You’re sitting there 90 minutes trying to optimise the strategy or give the best support to the drivers. But if there’s just no inherent pace, that’s a tough 90 minutes for all of us.”

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The team admitted better during the last race, Wolff admitted. “I think we were predicting that Montreal would not be ideal. It was surprisingly good. And then Austria, we thought that the high-speed would save our non-performance in the low-speed, but it kind of never did.

“I think we were equal with some of the good guys in the high-speed, but the car was never in the right place. We suffered from all of the conditions, from understeer to oversteer. It was never any good.

“Let’s see if Silverstone suits the characteristics a little bit better. We’re bringing some bits and ideas to Silverstone.”

However he admitted he can’t be confident the team will make “a major jump” this weekend.

After eight seasons of winning at least nine grands prix a year, Mercedes only won one in 2022 and in the first nine rounds of 2023 have a best finish of second. However Wolff still believes Mercedes could win on pace this season.

“I maintain the belief because if I were to say I don’t maintain the belief, then we may as well turn it off, put everything into next year’s car, be happy to finish in the top ten. But you can’t. You just have to continue working, take those bad days as good as possible and try to rebound and come closer. We’ve seen races where we were decent.”

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2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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13 comments on “Mercedes left scratching heads by lack of performance at Austrian GP”

  1. Hard to move on to develop next years car when you don’t understand why this one isn’t performing as expected.

  2. Yeah, that was a bit of a surprise given their Canada performance. I thought they would be right up there in the mix. Maybe in Austria there was a track specific element. Silverstone should indicate where they stand and I suspect the new tires will benefit them as well more than other teams.

    1. Altitude perhaps? Although not on the scale of somewhere like Mexico City, the Red Bull Ring is one of the higher places we go racing. Mercedes often struggled (comparatively speaking) at higher altitudes in their dominant years as their engine advantage was negated.

      Then again, the Red Bull Ring’s altitude is comparable to Interlagos, which has arguably been Mercedes’ strongest track of all over the last couple of years, so it’s not certain.

      1. @red-andy Silverstone isn’t exactly Alpine altitudes and they’re not impressing so far this Friday either.

  3. Didn’t they say last week “we’re on the right path”


  4. It’s quite ironic Toto said in Canada, that in Austria the car should do well, while Hamilton said in Austria that Mercedes traditionally doesn’t do well.
    It’s another example of the higher ups not seeing eye to eye with Hamilton.

    1. Or just a case of a team principal trying to keep the spirits up and project confidence, and a driver that downplays his chances as he always does.

    2. They did well last year.

  5. Coventry Climax
    6th July 2023, 11:44

    Come 2026 they’ll be back again, as the focus will change towards the engine again.
    With the key aerodynamic parts being mandatory as well as designed AND operated by the FIA, I expect both Newey and Verstappen to quit and Mercedes can be the heroes again, with all the Wolff narrative associated.
    Let’s just move to slot cars and be over with it.

    1. I agree and also expect Max and Newey to retire after 2025. Max has mentioned it many times. Newey is a bigger assumption.

  6. not to worried as their car never really performed well at Austria but if it doesn’t perform in silverstone then they have a problem.

  7. Less whining more focus on driving might help too. There are so many diatractions going on around Hamilton ojtside of the car and now he allowed some to come into the car too. Thats bad for drivers in general

  8. They might have tested some silverstone spec things and write rbr off to fully focus on silverstone

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