In an effort to boost performance and establish a “good baseline” for the rest of the season, Mercedes is set to introduce a long-awaited upgrade package for their W14 challenger at the upcoming Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola.
This major step in the evolution of Mercedes’ 2023 car is expected to include revisions to the sidepod area, as well as improvements to the “ride” for drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
French pit lane expert and commentator for Canal+, Franck Montagny, mentioned during Miami FP1 and FP3 that it should be the last time we see the current sidepod design, with a complete change expected in the upcoming Grand Prix at Imola. He has been clearly talking with mercedes engineers.
However, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff warns that, despite these upgrades, the team will not suddenly be able to “run circles” around F1 pace-setters Red Bull.
“The target is Imola,” Wolff said at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, adding, “I just need to manage everyone’s expectations because we are talking so much about the upgrade that when we put it down on the track, we aren’t likely to run circles around Red Bull.”
Improving Ride Control and Downforce
One of the main priorities for Mercedes in this upgrade package is to enhance the ride control of their car, rather than just focusing on increasing downforce.
Wolff explained, “For our car, it is more about the ride control than it is about sheer downforce. We could put a lot of downforce on the car but the car would be too low and too stiff.”
He further elaborated on the importance of ride control by comparing the Red Bull car’s balance and stability to other cars on the track.
Challenges of the F1 Cost Cap
Wolff went on to discuss the challenges posed by the F1 cost cap, which limits the amount of upgrades a team can bring to their car.
He said, “We are more stuck than before because if we would be completely free, we would bring a different chassis.”
As a result, Mercedes has to make careful decisions about which upgrades to prioritize. “We’re bringing a new front suspension to Imola and the aero upgrade that comes with it and floor. But if we were free, we’d probably bring double the amount of upgrades, but so would the others.”
Mercedes’ Chances of Reducing Deficit to Red Bull
Regarding the team’s chances of closing the gap to Red Bull, Wolff expressed hope, stating, “I think we can close it if we get the platform right.” He emphasized that it’s not just about adding downforce, but providing drivers with a car that responds predictably and doesn’t surprise them with sudden rear overtakes. “That’s the problem,” he said, “And then we can catch up, as we did last year.”
Only time will tell if these upgrades will help Mercedes regain their competitive edge and give Hamilton and Russell an improved ride to compete with the likes of Red Bull.