Why Imola Is Make Or Break For Mercedes

Originally a video script for WTF1 from May 2023, Dre talks about why Imola was meant to be a make or break round for Mercedes and their zero-sidepod concept.

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Read time: 3 mins

At face value, The 2023 Miami Grand Prix was a well-recovered weekend for Mercedes. George Russell matched his best result of the season in 4th, and Lewis Hamilton came back from a shock elimination in Q2 to finish in 6th, with an aggressive final stint on the medium tyre that he described as “What I live for.” 

It was a shot in the arm for a team whose struggles have been well-documented since the start of the 2022 regulation changes. And with Imola right around the corner, here’s why it’s going to be an absolutely critical race for Mercedes. *Intro*

From the opening round in Bahrain 2023, team principal Toto Wolff admitted that they had gone in the wrong direction with their “zero sidepod” concept and suspension layout after Red Bull beat them by 50 seconds over the course of the race. But there was some optimism in that Mercedes’ first major upgrade package would be set to arrive in Imola. 

The team took immediate action behind the scenes. In a shock move, Mike Elliott, the man who developed their ultimately flawed concept, removed himself via a strange reshuffle, promoting himself to Chief Technical Officer, with popular figure James Allison returning to his old role as technical director on a day-to-day basis. 

Allison was quick to dismiss talks of starting entirely from scratch with key parts of the car, but instead suggested a more holistic approach, trying to make the Mercedes’ W14 more driveable going forward improving the stability of its aerodynamics. James said: “We’ll be trying to improve the balance of the car. There isn’t a car out there with a perfect balance and ours is very much less than that. We’ll be trying to work on that, aerodynamically and in terms of platform control, with the suspension.” 

This goes hand in hand with comments after Baku by Toto Wolff, who spoke at length about the changes made, and the constant challenges of the new ground effect era of cars and how Mercedes can’t afford to run its cars as close to the ground as its rivals.

“You look at all the other onboards and the cars are tricky. So I think generally the ground effect cars are s*** cars, it’s just who has the least s***tiest is ahead. For our car, it’s more about the ride control than it is about sheer downforce,” said Wolff. “We could put a lot of downforce on the car, but the car would be too low, too stiff.”

“We’re bringing a new front suspension to Imola and then the aero upgrade that comes with it and floor. It is less about adding 10 points of downforce, it’s more about giving the driver a car that when they turn the wheel into the corner, they actually know that the rear doesn’t overtake them. That’s the problem.”

Toto said he thinks the upgrades could be worth three-tenths of a second a lap. And while that won’t be enough to give Red Bull a genuine title challenge, it could be enough to overtake their customers at Aston Martin, who are still six points ahead of them in the fight for second in the Constructor’s Championship. 

Are you excited for Mercedes upgrades? How long do you think it’ll take them to close the gap on Red Bull? Let us know in the comments, and if you liked the video, be sure to subscribe!

About the Author:

Dre Harrison

Leader of a Broadcast Journalism University project that went WAY out of hand. Even managed to parlay it into a WTF1 gig for a little while.

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