George Russell, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024

Mercedes believe ‘immediate step forward’ possible after poor first race

Formula 1

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Mercedes believe they have a chance to rebound from their poor start to the season at this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The team’s drivers finished fifth and seventh in last weekend’s opening round at the Bahrain International Circuit. That came as a disappointment to the pair after they topped the opening day of practice in their new W15s.

However team principal Toto Wolff is confident of righting the problems they encountered last week.

“Our race in Bahrain was best described as underwhelming,” he said. “We were hopeful of a stronger showing after our performance in practice and qualifying.

“Both drivers were pleased with the balance earlier in the weekend, and the more stable platform provided by the W15. Unfortunately on Saturday evening, our cooling performance didn’t match our predictions.”

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were both instructed to ‘lift-and-coast’ to address the overheating, which further compromised the car’s performance.

“That forced us into management mode early on, which had the knock-on impact of reducing tyre temperatures below optimum,” Wolff continued. “That cost us the opportunity to show something closer to our true potential. It was a frustrating way to start the season but one we will learn from.”

Wolff believes the team have “an opportunity to take a step forward immediately” at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit this weekend. “We will be aiming for a more consistent weekend and to understand our true performance relative to the rest of the grid.”

Russell qualified third in Bahrain, three tenths of a second off pole-winner Max Verstappen, but slipped to fifth place at the chequered flag, 46 seconds in arrears. Hamilton finished a further three seconds behind having qualified ninth, his lowest grid position in a season-opener for Mercedes.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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25 comments on “Mercedes believe ‘immediate step forward’ possible after poor first race”

  1. I find it interesting that in this day and age, with all these amazing computer models and simulations, a team can get its cooling predictions so wrong.

    It’d be interesting if any of the engineers actually argued against the size of ducts, radiators etc saying that they’d run into overheating issues only to be overruled by “data modelling”

    1. Not enough testing.

      1. This is the irony of sandbagging.

        They didn’t practice with their engines turned up. Instead, they roll up on race day with their engines turned up to 11 and simply hadn’t prepared their cooling for the extra load on the engines.

        The cars were set up for one-lap qualifying, which was never going to be sustained for the whole race.

        Of course, lightning can’t strike twice, or can it? This wasn’t just about this particular oversight, it’s about all possible oversights like this.

    2. Well a key factor of modelling is having sufficient data to insert into your model. In this case they clearly didn’t have enough data to simulate accurately but with every race their models will become more accurate and these issues will be less likely to occur.

      1. The model absolutely needs sufficient data, as you point out. But I do wonder if they have broader model issues. What I mean is, heat transfer physics does not change, so the only variable(s) would be this year’s specific design and temperature expectations.

        Even this year’s specific design should have a firm basis in prior years. Yes, X shape, or Y material may be different somewhat but functionally those are limited differences. Calibration vs. a misunderstanding of how a radiator works. I’d guess they either got the temperature wrong for some reason (assuming they could get by with a smaller vent or opening), or they have some underlying level of a modeling issue.

        I also don’t understand, at least for tracks where temps can swing and cause issues, why they don’t have like one extra tab on the brake ducts and the radiator vents. Where it remains closed and more aero friendly to start. But if heat becomes an issue, at the next pitstop they can just break off that tab and allow for better cooling.

    3. Meh, they sacrificed Bahrain race setup for next round qualifying.

    4. It is very likely that Mercedes is too eager to get some good results. They ran their car incredibly low at Austin last year and got DSQ for having significant wear.

      Similarly it is unlikely that they didn’t know what they were doing. They spent 3 days on that track and the track was colder than testing. And it’s not like cooling comes for free. More cooling means more drag and their car at Bahrain spec was very draggy.

  2. God I hope they do make a step forward so we don’t have with a fortnight of doomsaying before Melbourne

  3. HAM made the correct decision. The team has some crazy organizational disfunction going on. They continue to believe their models and simulations are correct after years of actual racing prove them wrong.

    1. Mmm, hamilton made the correct decision going to a team famous for getting their strategy wrong and being unable to develop the car? I’ll need some time to believe that.

      1. At least Ferrari can still get poles and win races. So it has to be better.

    2. As in I won’t believe it till and if I see improvements in 2025.

    3. Welll, its not like they are where Alpine is. I think they got a lot right, there’s just a team that has it even more right. Would be to straightforward if it was easy and not exactly a competition. Truth is they won for 8 consecutive years and have operated in the top 3 after that. Hardly a bad performance.

  4. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    5th March 2024, 13:10

    The pace of the McLarens is a massive concern for Mercedes and could make it more difficult to chase Ferraris or Red Bulls. The same goes for McLaren. Alonso’s Aston Martin can also be in the mix.

    This could easily be a 5 car DRS train fighting for P5-P9 and continue for the season.

    Qualifying high is going to be paramount for those drivers and track position may become more important as strategies will be less effective in clearing the pack or even having a Ferrari or Red Bull behind you to help defend and pull away at the start of the race.

    It will also be difficult for the other teams to get into the points if they have a wall of McLarens and Mercedes blocking their path stranding them in P10 with little wiggle room.

  5. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    5th March 2024, 13:17

    Unfortunately on Saturday evening, our cooling performance didn’t match our predictions.”

    Hmm, wasn’t the race held at night? also, it seemed to be pretty cold according to Martin Brundle in the practice or qualifying. Did the temperature change for the race?

    1. It’s not only about the ambient temperature it’s also the hot air coming off the cars in front which they underestimated in race conditions.

      1. good call.

  6. There has been a lot of believing in the Mercedes garage for the last few years and not a lot of listening to the driver(s). Of course it’s early and improvements are very much possible, but I would be surprised if they can make an immediate step (a significant one that is). Could be the cooling is sufficient in clean air but suffers greatly when following other cars. Which would make putting it on pole very important.

  7. The only possible response is a shrug. We’ve heard it too many times.
    And Red Bull haven’t started really playing with their new design. If there this far ahead without perfecting it, imagine when they extract more of its potential. Catch up doesn’t work when the other leading team has moved on already.

    1. Sorry that ‘other’ crept in by mistake: there is only one leading team.

  8. they cut off the cooling to their motor and sabotaged their race pace … what are these dudes thinking ? Are they fixing races or just ridiculously desperate to achieve mediocrity.

  9. They need to be competitive for wins to be worthy of their spot on the grid, that’s the official line!

    That step had better be big; 46 seconds is a huge gap when the leader wasn’t even pushing.

  10. isthatglock21
    6th March 2024, 13:49

    Merc are their own worst enemies. Every year you get these comments. Reaching Alpine x year timeline plan level delusion

  11. They were slow on the straights it’s hard to believe they had insufficient cooling on a cold ambient day. If so it’s a really bad sign for the summer. They may have to make significant bodywork changes or move cooling equipment to less ideal positions inside the car compromising handling.

    1. it would appear they didn’t do everything they needed to, in order to rearrange the exhaust, under the bonnet.

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