Mercedes working on ‘fundamental’ issues ahead of Australian GP after Lewis Hamilton calls for ‘big changes’ | F1 News

Mercedes endured a challenging start to the 2024 Formula 1 season in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia; watch the Australian Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1 from Friday, with lights out for Sunday’s race at 4am

Mercedes have admitted they are working on solving “fundamental issues” with their W15 car after a disappointing start to the 2024 Formula 1 season.

Having entered the new campaign with hopes of being Red Bull’s nearest challengers, Mercedes failed to place a car in the top four in either Bahrain or Saudi Arabia as Max Verstappen led team-mate Sergio Perez to dominant one-twos.

Lewis Hamilton, who has been outperformed by team-mate George Russell in both races, said after finishing ninth in Jeddah that “big changes” are still required beyond the overhaul that was meant to have advanced their underperforming cars of the last two years.

In the team’s online race debrief, Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin explained how experimenting with the setup of the W15 during practice failed to result in significant progress.

“We started to converge back in the general direction of where we came from arriving there,” Shovlin said.

Highlights of the Saudi Arabian GP from Jeddah

“But the learning of it is just that when you change things you can see the differences. So one car making changes, you can see how it performs run to run.

“We can also look at the global performance of the two cars but fundamentally the limitations that we had in qualifying and the race, they were broadly the same for both.

“So it’s telling you it’s not a small difference, it’s not a tiny bit of camber or a spring or bar here and there. It’s something more fundamental that we need to dig into and understand.”

Following the back-to-back opening races, the season resumes with the Australian Grand Prix from Friday in Melbourne.

Shovlin is hopeful that having more time to prepare could enable Mercedes to find some fixes.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell congratulate debutant Oliver Bearman after an impressive seventh place in the Ferrari

“There’s definitely data that we’re picking through from Jeddah,” he added. “We’re also looking at data from 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 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.”

Concerningly for Mercedes, Melbourne’s Albert Park Circuit has some similarities to Jeddah, where their weaknesses were most apparent.

“The balance wasn’t great,” Shovlin added. “So those very fast corners, the walls aren’t particularly far away. So the ones where the driver wants a lot of confidence, and quite often we were snapping to oversteer if they really leant on the tyres.

“And you can easily imagine how unsettling that is for the drivers. Now, that was a factor in a qualifying and the race. In qualifying we were also suffering a bit with the bouncing. Now that was less of a problem in the race. There’s more fuel on the car. You’re going a bit slower. And that seemed to calm down and wasn’t such an issue.

“And then the big one is we don’t really have enough grip there. So that’s one of the things that we are working hard on this week because Melbourne has similar nature of corners. So we’re doing a lot of work to try and understand why did we not seem to have the grip of some of our close competitors.”

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One of Mercedes’ biggest problems since F1’s regulation changes were introduced for 2022 has been a lack of straight-line speed, but they were actually had one of the quickest cars on the straights in Jeddah.

Shovlin is hopeful that the team won’t have to give up this advancement to restore performance in other areas.

“We were actually one of the fastest cars, if not the fastest car in a straight line,” he said. “So we were on quite a lot a light wing level.

“And what we could do is slow ourselves down in sector two and three to try and recover a bit of that time in sector one. But ideally we’d like to keep that and work out a way to try and improve sector one by means other than just putting a load more downforce on the car and then paying the price for it on the straights.”

Formula 1’s biggest ever season continues with the Australian Grand Prix from March 22-24, live on Sky Sports F1. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – just £21 a month for 12 months. No contract, cancel anytime

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