Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell‘s one-second deficit to pole sitter Max Verstappen in the Japanese Grand Prix qualifying rounds has highlighted significant balance and downforce issues that have plagued the pair throughout the season. The performances indicate that Mercedes is struggling to keep up, with both drivers eager for substantial alterations in the coming year.
Andrew Shovlin, the trackside engineering director for Mercedes, has conveyed the team’s commitment to addressing their racer’s feedback to make a significant leap forward in 2024. He stated, “Lewis and George together are always giving us feedback on where the weakness is.” He was profuse about these concerns during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend when discussing the W14 car.
Shovlin further noted that while the drivers might attribute different causes for the instability of their cars, the root issue remains insufficient stability. “We know that they don’t have the confidence to just throw it into a high-speed corner, and not have some concern that the rear is going to slide more than they want and be a bit of a challenge,” Shovlin acknowledged.
Despite different comments appearing in the press, the Mercedes team recognises that Hamilton and Russell share a consensus about the car’s weaknesses and where improvements are needed. Shovlin affirmed, “And we’re certainly not clinging on to any concepts that we have had before. We’re very open-minded. We’ve had a pretty chastening couple of years, and we are a team that’s working very hard to try and get back to the front.”
With the 2024 season in mind, advanced work is underway on the Mercedes‘ 2024 contender, with hopes resting on it delivering a significant step forward in pace to challenge Red Bull. Shovlin admitted there’s still uncertainty around whether the W15 design is meeting expectations but emphasized the ongoing efforts to address the car’s handling issues.
Moreover, Shovlin conveyed the inherent difficulty for any team to predict a car’s competitiveness against opposition accurately. Interestingly, he revealed that even their most successful cars, like those in 2015 or 2019, were developed without certainty of their ultimate performance level. Frequently, the team fell short of performance targets they had set. He concluded on an ambitious note – “But if you don’t set very ambitious targets, you’re probably not setting them high enough.”