The Mercedes AMG F1 team ran their troublesome W13 car at Paul Ricard on Wednesday ahead of the Spanish GP. It was deemed a ‘filming day’ where the only regulation is the cars are limited to 100 kilometres, so new parts can be tested. The Formula 1 tyres are allocated by Pirelli and are ‘development’ tyres to assist the Italian rubber manufacturer to evaluate evolutions from the current compounds for next season.
The teams are allowed 2 of these ‘filming days’ each year and this was the second and final one for the Brackley based team. At their first, Mercedes elected to allow both drivers to participate mid February at Silverstone. Russell drove the car in the morning and Hamilton stepped in for the afternoon with both having similar mileage.
Yet Hamilton was not present at the Mercedes test this week. Russell alone drove the full 100km and tried out the various new parts configurations.
The test at Paul Ricard was held in secret, behind closed doors, with no media allowed however the car has been seen today arriving at the Barcelona circuit. Pit lane spy shots suggest Mercedes have added in particular Ferrari style winglets underneath the car in an attempt to improve the airflow. This together with a revised floor mean the W13 running at the Circuit de Catalunya is significantly different from the one which was fastest during Practice 2 in Miami.
Speaking from the paddock today, Sky F1’s Karun Chandhok explains, “I think this is a big weekend for them. If they want to get themselves into the championship fight for the rest of this season, they can’t really leave it much longer than this.”
Barcelona is where the teams bring their first big package of updates for the season and Aston Martin, Ferrari, Red Bull and Alpine are all believed to be bringing big car developments.
The Spanish circuit is used for pre-season testing particularly because most of the lap is medium to high speed corners where the aerodynamics of the car are examined in full. A quick car in Barcelona is usually quick most places elsewhere.
The key for Mercedes is whether the car they have this weekend is better than the one they ran in testing. If not they could abandon the entire development philosophy and revert back to their earlier W13 designs. That would definitely signal the end of any hopes Wolff and his team have to push for multiple race wins and titles.
Hamilton’s first experience of the upgrades will be in FP1 tomorrow, whilst Russell already has had a day to develop a feel for the new car configuration. Lewis is already on the back foot in the Mercedes team mate battle and not having tested in France this week will again make his job to overcome Russell even more difficult.