Mercedes’ trackside engineering director, Andrew Shovlin, says that the team will look to make “radical” changes to its car after its performance in Bahrain was “not good enough”.
Mercedes finished fifth and seventh with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, respectively, 50 seconds behind the race winning Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
Speaking on the first Mercedes race debrief video of the season, posted on the team’s YouTube channel, Shovlin admitted that Mercedes’ pace in the first race was “not good enough”.
“Ultimately, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Shovlin said. “The gap in qualifying was quite large, we were over half a second to the front. In the race that was even bigger.
“That was compounded by the fact that when you get the tyre degradation, you get a bit more sliding, the tyres run hotter and you end up finding it very difficult to keep them under any kind of control. There is a lot that we need to understand but the key things are really getting on top of that long run degradation, which last year was a strong point for us.
“Clearly, we’ve got something that’s not in the right place that we need to work on but ultimately the other thing is that performance gap to the front. The raw pace of the car is not good enough. We are working very hard at the moment to understand what we can do in the short-term future and in the mid-term future to try and get ourselves in a better place.”
Mercedes adopted an aggressive “zero sidepod” concept for their 2022 car, the first season held under the current technical regulations. After sticking with the concept for the W14, team principal Toto Wolff admitted there would be no “sacred cows” as Mercedes look to try and return to the font, something Shovlin says will require heavy revision of their new car.
“People have tended to use the word ‘concept’ when they mean ‘the sidepod design’ and Toto had said recently that we are looking at a revision that is going to come along in the next few races anyway,” Shovlin explained.
“Given the gap to the front, of course we are going to look at bigger departures and more radical changes. But those changes take time to turn into a faster solution in the wind tunnel – you can’t do them over night.
“There is quite a lot of development that you’ve got to do around any sort of big change in geometry in that area. Of course, we are looking at where we can improve the car, we are looking for potential to develop and you will see visible changes coming on the car over the next few races.”
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
Shovlin says Mercedes opted to run both Hamilton and Russell with different specification rear wings in practice to conduct side-by-side tests, something the team did at times last season such as during the Canadian Grand Prix.
“We did look at a bigger rear wing on George’s car on Saturday morning, so he went to one that we were running in the test,” Shovlin said.
“Lewis stayed with our update wing, the lighter downforce wing and the conclusion from the Saturday running was that the wing that Lewis had, the one that was faster in a straight line, was overall quicker. Come the race, both cars were on the same rear wing.”
Shovlin admitted Mercedes have a “tough journey” ahead of them over the rest of the 2023 season, but that they were “committed to improving the car” in an effort to return to the front.
“It’s a very difficult start to the year and after the season we had in 2022 we certainly didn’t wish for this sort of challenging start. But everyone’s been very quick to acknowledge that problem.
“The drivers are very much on board with that, and they have been working very well together to try and help us develop and improve the car. It’s nice just to see how everyone is very honest about the challenge that is ahead of us, very humble about where we are and what we need to do to move forward and committed to finding solutions because we are not happy with our current performance. We know that’s not good enough, but we will be doing everything we can to improve it.”
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and