The hints of Mercedes progress despite lack of significant results
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By Adam Proud profile image Adam Proud
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The hints of Mercedes progress despite lack of significant results

The Silver Arrows had an up and down Chinese Grand Prix, but it could be the catalyst to kickstart 2024

It wasn’t a weekend that lived up to those that Mercedes have been used to in the past, but the Chinese Grand Prix can be looked back on with a certain degree of positivity.

Comparing how the 2014-2021 period went for the German manufacturer, there has certainly been a lot less to celebrate in recent times as the team still looks for a way to fully wrap its head around the new aerodynamic regulations.

And although China still had its negatives, there were times when Mercedes looked like its old self - albeit in an inconsistent way.

Take Lewis Hamilton’s second place result in the sprint qualifying for example, which was followed up on Saturday with the runner-up spot on the podium.

But fast forward just a few hours after that race, and the seven-time world champion qualified 18th on the grid for Sunday’s grand prix - his first Q1 exit since the 2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Clawing his way back into the points with a ninth place finish on Sunday was all that could be salvaged from an up and down weekend, with the 39-year-old giving a stark summary of his outing in China - although he was hopeful that an upgrade due for the car ahead of F1’s next race in Miami will boost morale and performance.

“I’m grateful just to get to the points,” he told Sky F1. 

“I didn’t honestly expect a lot more this weekend.

“Hopefully we have some steps forward coming in the next race, so until then we’ll be back at the factory next week and just trying to position the car a bit better for Miami and hopefully have a better weekend.”

Not a glowing summary of the weekend by any means, but a strong performance on Friday’s qualifying was backed up in Saturday’s sprint - and according to Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, a setup change to Hamilton’s W15 made all the difference to his lowly finish come the rest of the weekend.

“We must make sure that we are not trying to find a silver bullet each weekend when it comes to how we run the car,” he explained. 

“We need to focus on getting the basics right, and maximising the package we have. 

“Today, we didn’t have the car in the right window: we made too many extreme changes after the Sprint and that made the most important part of the weekend much more challenging.”

Like 2022 and 2023, Mercedes has failed to hit the ground running this year, and arguably has struggled more so in 2024’s opening rounds.

It sits fourth in the constructors’ championship - 44 points behind McLaren - with Aston Martin only 12 points behind in fifth.

But the Brackley-based team have a more consistent driver pairing than their rivals behind, with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll having a torrid Chinese Grand Prix as he collided with Daniel Ricciardo - earning himself a 10-second penalty.

So in many ways, you could consider that Mercedes may not need to worry too much about who’s behind them, but more so on who is ahead.

And that’s the attitude the team holds, with its upgrade package for Miami in the works, George Russell is keen to see what it can add in order to close in on the three teams ahead.

“I think this weekend we know where we’re falling out, and I think the last three races we’re kind of in the battle with Fernando [Alonso], [Oscar] Piastri, and P6 is where we are right now,” he explained to Sky F1 following the race. 

“It was an interesting weekend managing to have two different setups on the car between Friday and Sunday, so [there’s] some info to go through. But ultimately we just need to dig into the data and just keep on adding performance to the car.

“You always hope and you’re trying your best and driving as fast as possible. But ultimately you end up falling into car pace order, and that’s the case for everybody at the moment. 

“That’s Formula 1, and as I said we just need to keep on working hard to try and close that gap, get more in the fight with Ferrari and Lando [Norris], and try and close on the Red Bulls.”

Of course it’s what happens on a Sunday that matters most when the margins are so fine, but there could be some light at the end of the tunnel for Mercedes.

A front row start in China’s sprint may have set the ball rolling despite the rather glum observations Mercedes took away from the weekend - and with upgrades on the way for the sixth round of 2024, all eyes will be on whether or not the Silver Arrows can push their way back into regular podium contention once more.

By Adam Proud profile image Adam Proud
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