Why Mercedes upgrades carry a lot of uncertainty

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

Mercedes will bring an important package of improvements to the Miami GP, although the impact of those parts is difficult to predict. A number of problems have limited Mercedes from 2022, and despite a series of bold changes, there are still clear weaknesses at Brackley. Technical director James Allison expressed his belief before the start of the season that the W15 will be different from its predecessors. However, the last two months have shown that the Silver Arrows are still far from challenging Red Bull.

Toto Wolff does not lack experience in Formula 1, as he spent more than a decade in the paddock. However, it is difficult to imagine a time when the head of the Austrian team was faced with a more difficult period than he is now.

A hard pill to swallow

After two years of failure (for a team of Mercedes’ caliber), there seems to be no end in sight – at least not before 2026 and new regulations. Even Lewis Hamilton’s special lap in sprint qualifying at the Chinese Grand Prix, followed by 2nd place in the sprint itself, was only a temporary triumph for the team.

The end of the race in Shanghai exposed the limitations of the W15. Perhaps more worryingly, the set-up changes made by the Mercedes staff failed to improve performance from Saturday to Sunday. If anything, Mercedes has lost ground compared to its immediate rivals.

Mercedes has a low level of confidence

In many ways, the team’s last-minute changes in lineups show their greatest flaws. Basically, the Silver Arrows don’t fully understand how these ground effect cars work. This is why Ferrari and McLaren have beaten them in recent months.

Not only does the W15 lack overall performance, but optimizing its pace is also a problem. Indeed, Mercedes’ 2024 car has very limited working hours – creating headaches for drivers and engineers.

In that sense, the team’s improvements for the Miami Grand Prix do not necessarily inspire confidence. Of course, new components could unlock something for Mercedes. The Brackley-based team are still capable of digging themselves out of this hole.

However, the last two years have been characterized by false progress. Hypothetical improvements seen in the wind tunnel are not guaranteed to manifest on track.

In just five races, Mercedes changed different specifications of the floor. This is not free thinking, but a living response to the unwanted tendencies of the W15 car. Looking ahead, it’s not unrealistic to imagine a scenario where the team’s next upgrades (coming for sprint weekend) provide more questions than answers.