Mercedes in Giappone solo con il suo “esperimento live” di successo

( – Mercedes has lost all chances for a better result right from the start at the Japan Grand Prix 2024 in Suzuka, says team principal Toto Wolff. He told Sky: “Basically, it was a terrible first stint. We tried a one-stop strategy, but we were too gentle on the tires.” In the end, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished in seventh and ninth positions.

However, what proved fatal for Mercedes was primarily the closing stages of the first race segment: While competitors were already using fresh tires, Mercedes’ used hard tires deteriorated by “two to two and a half seconds per lap,” according to Wolff. “It was clear that it wouldn’t work out.”

But Mercedes were strategically tied, as explained by chief race engineer Andrew Shovlin at the track: “We couldn’t come in early because there was too much traffic in the pit stop window, so we stayed out until we cleared the traffic behind us. Unfortunately, by then, we had already lost a lot of time.” Team principal Wolff mentioned a loss of “probably half a minute.”

However, Mercedes deliberately accepted this in Suzuka: The team felt that “there was no danger from behind after the red flag,” says Shovlin. Running a long stint on hard tires was therefore “the best way” to “try something different” from the competitors in front.

Russell also commented, “Running on hard tires was the right decision. It gave us the flexibility to either go through with one stop or switch to a two-stop strategy.”

Mercedes conducts a “live experiment” in Suzuka

The entire race in Japan was about experimentation for Mercedes. Team principal Wolff called it a “live test” and a “live experiment” that ultimately “worked.” While finishing in seventh and ninth places was “not good enough for Mercedes,” they learned a lot about their set-up and tire strategy, he explained.

Specifically, the second and third stints were “competitive and in contention for the podium,” as confirmed by the F1 Tempo data analysis. While Russell was consistently slower than Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz in the first stint on hard tires, he was faster in the second stint and practically on par in the third stint. Or “really good,” as Wolff put it on Sky.

Why the result is a “slap in the face” for Mercedes

Wolff made it clear that he was not trying to sugarcoat the result. It was “a slap in the face in terms of result,” but Mercedes did make progress with the insights gained from the race, which they hope to carry to the next race in Shanghai.

From Wolff’s perspective, the W15-Mercedes must not only show speed sporadically but be “fast on all tracks.” There are no excuses for temperature or track layout. “We need to get it under control.”

Suzuka gives him hope in this regard, as Mercedes has “changed a lot” in terms of car setup. “This is not reflected in the results, but I believe the car will be faster,” Wolff said.

Russell: Qualifying determines chances in the race

According to Russell, it is crucial because it is “incredibly tight” in the midfield behind Red Bull. “Qualifying is key because there are only one or two tenths between people from P3 to P8 on the starting grid. Whoever is at the top of this group in qualifying will also have a good chance in the race,” Russell said.

“We know we have work ahead of us. No one is satisfied with fighting for second best. But China should suit us better than the recent tracks.”