Major Focus on W15 as Mercedes Prepares for Australian Grand Prix

Mercedes’ team principal, Toto Wolff, has shed light on the reasons behind the team’s optimism regarding potential performance gains from the W15.

Despite a somewhat lackluster beginning to the 2024 season, the W15 has garnered considerable praise from drivers, signaling a notable improvement over the preceding seasons’ challenges.

Although both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have expressed contentment with the advancements made during the offseason, Mercedes finds itself in a familiar position within the hierarchy of Formula 1 teams.

Red Bull maintains its lead, with Ferrari closely trailing, while Mercedes contends with McLaren and Aston Martin for the “best of the rest” title, reminiscent of last season’s standings.

George Russell’s fifth and sixth-place finishes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, respectively, alongside Hamilton’s seventh and ninth-place results, exemplify Mercedes’ current position. The team currently sits fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, trailing McLaren by a mere two points.

Nevertheless, Toto Wolff remains optimistic that identified weaknesses can be swiftly rectified, paving the way for progress towards the front of the grid.

“We’ve been hard at work since Jeddah building on the learnings from the first two races,” In the preview of the Australian Grand Prix, he remarked.

“It’s encouraging to see the potential in the W15 but there are also clear areas of improvement.

“We have looked competitive in low and medium-speed corners but high-speed has been a weakness so far.

“We have been working hard to understand why our performance hasn’t reflected our expectations. Improving that is a major focus.

“We hope to make some initial progress for Melbourne, and that work will guide our development in the weeks ahead. It’s great to feel the energy and determination running through the factories as we work to unlock the potential of the car.”

The recent track modifications at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne have transformed it into another high-speed track, though not as daunting as the Jeddah Corniche circuit.

It was in Jeddah where Mercedes faced the notorious ‘bouncing‘ issue that has plagued them in past seasons, despite the significant departure from their previous design approach.

This has prompted Wolff to acknowledge that correlation issues might be the cause of their challenges in low-downforce, high-speed situations.

He stated: “I can see from the sensors that we have what we need.” 

“But there is still this behavior of the car in a certain speed range that the sensors and simulation say this is where we should have the downforce and we are not having it.

“This team has not been overconfident. We were probably the other way around and see the glass half empty always. That is the attitude to fix it.

“It’s more a fundamental thing, that we believe that the speed should be there. We measure the downforce but we don’t find it in lap time.”

Andrew Shovlin of Mercedes mentioned that back at the Brackley headquarters, the team is meticulously analyzing data to uncover any overlooked aspects concerning the W15.

“There’s definitely data that we’re picking through from Jeddah,” the engineer elaborated.

“We’re also looking at data from [the] Bahrain race, Bahrain test and we will come up with a plan for how we approach free practice in Melbourne. But it’s not just based on what we did in Jeddah.

“There’s a lot of work going on within the aerodynamics department, vehicle dynamics department. We’re trying to design some experiments there that will hopefully give us a direction that’s good for performance.”

With the W15’s vulnerabilities becoming apparent due to the presence of several high-speed tracks early in the season, Wolff’s assurance that the team will address these issues instills optimism that achieving a flawless weekend will lead to significantly improved outcomes. 

He remarked: “We left points on the table in both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. 

“We started off each weekend strongly, running our usual practice programs, but couldn’t deliver on that initial promise.

“With the chasing pack being so close, maximizing the potential of the car each weekend is key. Albert Park gives us another chance to show what we can do. It is a great circuit in a great city, with a passionate and vocal fan base, and we look forward to returning.”