Why Mercedes upgrades carry huge uncertainty

Mercedes upgrades have become hit-or-miss in recent seasons.

Mercedes will bring an important upgrade package to the Miami GP, although the impact of these parts is difficult to predict. A variety of issues have limited Mercedes since 2022, and despite a series of bold changes, there are still clear weaknesses at Brackley. Technical Director James Allison expressed confidence in pre-season that the W15 would be different to its predecessors. However, the last two months have proven that the Silver Arrows are still a long way from challenging Red Bull.

Toto Wolff has no shortage of experience in Formula 1, having spent over a decade in the paddock. Still, it is difficult to imagine a time when the Austrian team principal faced a tougher spell than he is currently.

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A tough pill to swallow

After two years of failure (for a team of Mercedes’ calibre), there seems to be no end in sight – at least not before 2026 and the new regulations.

Even a special lap from Lewis Hamilton in China Sprint qualifying, followed by 2nd place in the Sprint itself, was only a temporary triumph for the team.

Completing a race distance in Shanghai exposed the limitations of the W15. Perhaps more concerningly, the set-up changes made by Toto Wolff’s personnel failed to improve performance from Saturday to Sunday. If anything, Mercedes lost ground compared to their immediate rivals.

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Mercedes low on confidence

In many ways, the team’s last-minute set-up changes demonstrate their biggest shortcomings. Fundamentally, the Silver Arrows do not fully understand how these ground-effect cars work. This is why the likes of Ferrari and McLaren have outdeveloped them in recent months.

Not only is the W15 lacking in overall performance, but optimising its pace is an issue. Indeed, the 2024 Mercedes challenger has a very limited operating window – creating headaches for drivers and engineers alike.

In this sense, the team’s upgrades for the Miami GP do not necessarily inspire confidence. Of course, new components could unlock something for Mercedes. The Brackley-based team is still capable of digging itself out of this hole.

However, the last two years have been characterised by false dawns. The hypothetical improvements seen in the wind tunnel are far from guaranteed to manifest themselves on track.

In just five rounds, Mercedes has switched between various different floor specifications. This has not been free-meditated but instead a live response to the W15’s unwanted tendencies.

Looking forward, it is not unrealistic to envision a scenario where the team’s next updates (which arrive at a Sprint weekend) provide more questions than answers.


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