The German car manufacturer has committed to an action plan that will trigger a change of concept as it moves away from the ‘zeropod’ idea that it has raced with since the start of last season.
And while it knows that it will take a long time for it to make the progress it thinks is necessary to be fighting right at the front, Mercedes has offered some encouraging news for drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
Speaking at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said that the squad had already unlocked good performance steps now that it has changed its approach.
“It is big steps in relative performance to where we are even now,” explained Wolff. “The kind of gains that are coming in, in our R&D and in aero, are much bigger than we’ve had over a long time.
“So we’ve unlocked some potential because we are simply look at things from different angles now. We have a different perspective, because of our learnings of the Bahrain test and race.
“There was no step back. On the contrary, there was immediately two steps forward.”
While much of the focus of ‘concept’ talk at the team has revolved around the sidepods, it appears that the change of direction for Mercedes relates more to the set-up window of where the car runs in relation to the ground.
“I think the biggest change that we made is actually looking at whether we want to have the car set-up in its sweet spot,” explained Wolff.
“We’ve been too low last year, and we’ve been too high this year. And now we believe we know what to land on.
“On the other side, then obviously, everything else follows in terms of floor, and bodywork that you want to achieve.
“So I don’t want to sound too foolishly optimistic, but at least we see low hanging fruit with things that are encouraging.”
George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
Wolff said that, as a result of the work being done, future developments of the W14 would make it look very different.
“It is all the aerodynamic surfaces that are visible, from the leading edge all the way to the diffuser and the beam wing,” he said.
“There’s massive amounts on the floor, obviously with a ground-effect car, and then there’s many more architectural things that are necessary in order to do things more efficient.
“So it’s literally the car is being turned upside down at the moment and there’s a lot of goodness that we see.”
While George Russell’s third place grid slot for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix has given the team an indication that things may not be as bad as they looked in Bahrain, Wolff says that his views on the team needing a major car rethink are unchanged.
“We’re always looking at the benchmark performance, and that is [Max] Verstappen and [Sergio] Perez today, and it’s just too far away. So that hasn’t changed.
“I think if Max would have finished qualifying, the gap would have been even bigger. We have seen in other long runs too.
“So, my state of mind hasn’t changed a millimetre just because we are P3 in qualifying. But the difference is that the trajectory is set now. So it’s not any more this single session, single qualifying or even a single race. We are just storming full steam ahead now changing things.”