As F1 prepares to kick off its European tour in a week’s time with the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola, most teams will be using the event to bring in their latest offerings for their cars. Mercedes is obviously one of them, but George Russell believes that his team is too far behind to hope to fight at the front.
While Lewis Hamilton is looking forward to the Mercedes W14 update that will be introduced at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on the weekend of 19-21 May at Imola in Italy, team-mate George Russell is more circumspect about the upcoming improvements.
Mercedes issues laid bare
With the exception of Red Bull, all the teams seem to struggle to varying degrees with the set-up of their cars from weekend to weekend. Mercedes, however, seem to suffer more than most when it comes to the extremes of the envelope.
Hamilton sees parallels between the current W14 and last year’s car, which was difficult to manage, as Hamilton explains.
“Melbourne obviously was night and day difference – (it was) much, much nicer to drive there. Baku felt better than here also [Baku]. I think maybe the heat or maybe just the balance we have at the moment … I’m going to stay optimistic…
“I’m going to stay hopeful that we can get the car in a better place tomorrow and maybe be a couple of steps up. But it feels like, apart from.”
W14 is basically last year’s car
“Last year we had hardcore bouncing, (and) it genuinely feels like we are racing pretty much the same car – that’s the difficult thing.”
The team are pinning their hopes on upgrades promised at the car launch and now due next time out in Italy to stop the current run of fortune.
“[It’s the] Same as every weekend … That we’re a second down,” bemoans Hamilton.
“It’s a great weekend; it’s a great place to be [Miami], lots of positives; it’s just we are not particularly quick. It’s a struggle out there. We’re trying lots of different things.”
“As I said, I am trying to stay positive about it. We are working as hard as we can, it’s just we desperately need upgrades, that’s for sure. (We’ve) just got to keep our head down for one more race and hopefully, we can start a new path (at the) next race.”
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Wolff and Hamilton praying for an upgrade ‘miracle’
The upgrades are the legacy of outgoing Mercedes technical director Mike Elliot, whose car design philosophy was heavily criticised by Lewis Hamilton.
James Allison, who has returned to the role of technical director, is unlikely to make his mark on the car until after the summer break, meaning a quantum leap at Imola is not likely.
But this hasn’t stopped Wolff publically declaring during the Miami Grand Prix that the next update to the W14 being a huge one for Imola, almost a complete redesign.
“What we’re doing is we’re introducing a new bodywork, and we’re introducing a new floor and we’re doing a new front suspension and that’s pretty large,” revealed Toto Wolff in Miami.
“That’s a pretty large operation. Large surgery. It’s going to be a lot of learning in the virtual world, where it is good lap time.”
However, the problem for the Brackley team is that they are still in the dark about the basic building blocks of their future car, while the rest of the team are in the process of putting the framework in place. The previously optimistic Hamilton and Wolff pinning much up on this big update should now be praying for a miracle.
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Russell admits Imola upgrade won’t be any better
Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast, the British driver gave his damning verdict on Mercedes saying: “There are a lot of expectations around Imola. Everyone is moving forward and everyone will be making improvements and certainly we will be taking a small step in the right direction.”
“I would like to think that we can turn things around, but F1 is never that simple. I won’t give away any secrets, but don’t expect the world to change at Imola,” Russell admitted.
The British driver, who joined the team in 2022, cannot help but notice how far behind the Silver Arrows are from their rivals at the start of the year and frequently admits as much in the press.
And even though Mercedes has made progress since the middle of the 2022 season, George Russell remains realistic about the gap to the current leader:
“Red Bull will always be the fastest. We are chasing them and we want to beat them.” He concludes.
Mercedes is (before the Emilia Romagna GP) in third place in the constructors’ championship and is 128 points behind Red Bull, the current leader. If the first place seems difficult or even impossible to get, the silver arrows are playing for scraps with Aston Martin, 2nd in the constructors’ championship with only 6 points ahead.
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