Mercedes adamant they are on track for success in 2024 after Spa upgrades

Mercedes brought new sidepods to the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa

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Mercedes are finally developing in the right direction for winter development ahead of the 2024 Formula 1 season according to their chief technical officer, after a difficult 2023 season so far for the team.

Mercedes continued their ‘zero sidepods’ concept over the winter that brought them a grand prix victory in 2022 but saw them well off the pace for most of the season, then abandoned that at the season-opening 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix.

However, ahead of the summer break and with Mercedes looking locked in to second in the constructors’ championship, they think they’ve finally cracked their development path after the first part of their next upgrade hit the W14 at Spa.

“You have to pick a direction and go in it, as you learn you can tweak that direction and move it slightly,” chief technical officer Mike Elliott told the media. “I’d like to think we’ve got ourselves into the right place for the winter.

“I think the real difficulty is the aero testing restrictions, you’ve got such a limited number of runs you’ve got to pick a direction and go for it.

“If you go down the route of saying ‘I want to develop a car for high ride heights or for low ride heights and I want to be able to cover all my bases’ suddenly you’d be doing, like, three runs a week on each one and going nowhere.”

George Russell hits the track on day one of 2023 F1 pre-season testing in Bahrain | LAT Images / Mercedes F1 Team

Mercedes brought new sidepods to the 2023 Belgian GP that struck a balance between the Ferrari and Red Bull concepts from the start of the season, as they look to repeat the step forward they took with their Monaco upgrade package.

While they had a quiet race in Spa, picking up another solid points haul but missing the podium, it was the races after Monaco that really showed their new speed and they’ll hope for the same effect this time around.

Elliott added: “Obviously we brought a package here, there’s still some more to come, but I can’t say how much.”

Where Mercedes went wrong in 2022 and 2023

George Russell sits behind Max Verstappen and Kevin Magnussen in the 2023 Sao Paulo Grand Prix sprint race | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Elliott also revealed the ‘trap’ Mercedes fell into for the new regulations in 2022. Mercedes entered the season having won fifteen championships in the past seven years, and would’ve completed a clean sweep of the era were it not for the ‘human error’ that saw Max Verstappen beat them to the 2021 drivers’ title.

However, they’ve been well off that form since the regulation change, scrapping for the podium places behind the all-conquering Verstappen.

“For these cars, aerodynamically they want to run close to the ground and so if you run them close to the ground, you have to run them stiff and that’s one of the traps we fell into last year if we’re honest,” Elliott said.

“So I think that’s always going to be that balance you have on this set of regulations, you’ve got cars that want to run really close to the ground, how do you get that balance right?”

When is the next F1 2023 race?

F1 will return from its summer break with the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix from Zandvoort  on August 25-27, where championship leader Max Verstappen will be racing on home soil.

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, and previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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