Mercedes insist Japan pace “better than final result suggest”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes the Japanese GP results do not show the W15’s true potential.

For much of the last two years, Mercedes has spoken with optimism about the future. After conceding that the ‘zeropod’ philosophy was a dead-end last year, the Silver Arrows re-appointed James Allison to the role of technical director. The hope was that 2024 could spark a resurgence.

Unfortunately, the W15 has fallen short of expectations. Ironically, the German constructor’s 2024 challenger is arguably further behind Red Bull than its predecessor. Considering the optimism heading into this season, such a scenario is difficult to swallow.

In Japan, Toto Wolff and his personnel made a series of changes. Having studied the cause of their lack of performance in Australia, the W15 was fitted with a different floor for last weekend’s GP. Mercedes actually reverted to their initial specification from testing, a decision motivated by the car’s lack of consistency to start the year.

In some ways, the Silver Arrows managed to establish a more reliable platform. Mercedes did not experience the significant swings in performance from Friday to Saturday that characterised the first three races of 2024.

However, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell still lacked the machinery to fight at the front. In fact, the W15 solidified its position as the fourth-fastest team – perhaps even falling behind the upgraded Aston Martin.

Despite this result, team principal Toto Wolff sees reason for optimism:

“Overall, this weekend has been better than the final results suggest. We have lots to learn, and there is no relevant excuse we will use,” he explained in Suzuka.

“We need to be quick at all circuits. But from what we’ve seen here, we can say that the car is become quicker. 

“We will continue to work hard, and i am excited to head back to China in a few weeks.”

On paper, the Chinese GP could be a difficult event for Mercedes. The Shanghai International circuit should see Ferrari challenge Red Bull at the front, whilst Aston Martin’s AMR24 is likely to perform better at this layout.

Moreover, the team’s unreliable simulator data means it could be punished in a Sprint race weekend. Any set-up miscalculations could have significant repercussions – especially with five teams firmly fighting at the front.

Toto Wolff is clearly optimistic, and there have certainly been glimmers of hope for Mercedes. However, it remains unclear when – if ever – the former F1 Champions can put everything together with this generation of cars.


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