Mercedes Struggles Persist Despite Upgrades

F1 commentator Harry Benjamin expresses his belief that Mercedes is encountering navigational challenges regarding the trajectory of their car, despite their intentions to address this issue through additional upgrades to the W15 at Imola this weekend.

Benjamin, predominantly heard behind the microphone during races on BBC Radio 5 Live, will be substituting for David Croft on Sky Sports F1 as the primary commentator, as Croft takes the first of three planned breaks this season.

Toto Wolff, in advance of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, confirmed that further enhancements are slated for the W15 this weekend, subsequent to initial upgrades introduced in Miami.

He cautioned that the fruition of their alterations will require time but affirmed they have now identified a definitive path forward for the car.

However, trailing significantly behind their competitors in the Constructors’ standings, Benjamin, an established Formula 1 commentator, opines that Mercedes still appears uncertain about their strategic direction.

“I think Mercedes are still not in a favorable position,” Benjamin shared on the Sky Sports F1 podcast, in the days preceding his inaugural stint as lead commentator for the channel.

“They brought upgrades in Miami. They said themselves, I spoke to some of the team, they chucked a big wing on there, which they knew would put them down on straight line speed, and especially that long back straight in Miami, you’re going to suffer.

“But considering all that, it was probably one of [Lewis Hamilton’s] best weekends so far of the year just in terms of scrapping and [scoring] a decent points result.

“But this is where Mercedes are at the moment, in the lower points of the top 10. And I don’t know about you, but I just get the sense that they are still lost.

“Yes, they can bring more upgrades, but it just feels like at one point, you’re slamming your head against a brick wall.”

Fellow panelist and former Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok elaborated on Mercedes’ ongoing quest for the optimal balance from their car during race weekends—a situation he finds surprising for teams that have already fine-tuned their setups through prior groundwork.

In this context, Chandhok observes that rival team McLaren has gained a “huge confidence boost” by successfully integrating a substantial upgrade in Miami within a condensed time frame, contrasting with Mercedes’ continued adjustments to their car.

“They sort of seem to be still looking for that silver bullet, and they’re still talking about experimenting with setups, experimenting with the car,” he stated.

“And really, if you know your baseline, you shouldn’t have to experiment at the race weekends.

“You should be able to arrive with a setup, and then just go plus or minus a little bit in terms of tweaking, a bit of mechanical balance, a bit of roll balance, a bit of aero balance and weight distribution and just get it all within a window.

“You should be able to hit FP1 within a window and then you’re just tweaking, really, to cater for track evolution and the tyres on track temperature, which is where I believe McLaren are now.

“I think the fact that they were able to bring an upgrade, and a significant upgrade to Miami, knowing that they only had one practice session to dial the car in – got it dialed in – it worked well in the Sprint qualifying, and Sprint race and eventually the Grand Prix, that is a huge, huge confidence boost in the engineering team.

“And I fully agree with Harry, I don’t believe that Mercedes have that clear thought process and understanding of: ‘This is where we are with the car.’”