Mercedes open up on chances of success at upcoming Australian Grand Prix
Mercedes head into the 2023 Australian Grand Prix with their trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin hopeful of a podium fight.
F1 2023 is only two races old, but already Red Bull have put rival teams on high alert by making an utterly dominant start to the campaign, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez both with a pole position and victory each, while the drivers ensured one-two finishes for the team in both the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian GPs.
As for the rather distant P3 finisher, that has been Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso at the start of the campaign, the AMR23 having proven to be the second-fastest race car at the first two battlegrounds.
Mercedes meanwhile found better performance as they left Bahrain for Saudi Arabia, George Russell initially claiming a podium at the latter before Alonso’s 10-second post-race penalty was rescinded.
And so Shovlin hopes that Mercedes in Melbourne can fight for a top-three finish, this time with a different outcome.
“The car is hard work to get into the right window and it’s not as easy for the drivers as it needs to be, but we’ve certainly found a better balance than in Bahrain and it has been a lot kinder on its tyres,” he said.
“We’re under no illusion that we have a lot of work to do. We’ve been busy at the factory searching for performance and the initial findings are encouraging which gives us the motivation to keep working hard to improve.
“We’re looking forward to the next race in Melbourne; it’s closer in characteristics to Saudi than Bahrain, so hopefully we’ll have a car that we can fight for a podium.
“If there is any more performance that we can bring we’ll make sure we get it to the track.”
Mercedes’ technical director Mike Elliott had, in their Saudi Arabian GP debrief, also stated his hope that the team can make another “small step forward” in Melbourne.
That being said, he stressed that Mercedes are still in a “learning” process having started the season in disappointing fashion, once more far adrift of the leading pace.
“Firstly, our main aim at the moment is to continue learning,” he said. “We’ve only had two races so far; it’s really difficult to build trends from that.
“And really what we are concentrating on is trying to work out how do we keep moving forward? Can we make that next little step? Can we gain some more understanding that is going to help us to recover?
“In terms of the actual characteristics of the circuit, Australia is probably front-limited and probably more like Jeddah than Bahrain. So, let’s hope that we can find another small step forward, get a bit more competitive, find the learning that is going to help us move forward in the long-term.”
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This first month of F1 2023 has certainly been a testing time for the Mercedes squad though, team boss Toto Wolff and their seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton both having been highly critical of the W14 challenger produced.
However, Elliott said there is a “huge amount of energy” around the Brackley and Brixworth factories as Mercedes strive to get back on the right path.
“Obviously, Bahrain was a real reality check and to find ourselves in the position we find ourselves in, not being competitive, was a real disappointment,” said Elliott. “A disappointment for the whole team.
“But you have to get yourself through that and you have to turn that into what we are going to do about it? How are we going to bring the sort of the energy and what we are capable of doing? How are we going to move ourselves forward? How are we going to get ourselves back in the fight?
“And actually, walking around the factory there is a huge amount of energy.”
And that energy is being turned into “a huge amount of work” to get Mercedes back into title contention.
“There is a huge amount of work going on, we are starting to see some of the development come through already that is going to get us back into this championship fight,” said Elliott.
“And all we can do is just keep pushing and actually I’ve been really pleased to see the attitude in the team.”
Mercedes do have a multi-time Australian GP winner in their ranks in the form of Hamilton, who won here for the team in 2015, as well as in 2008 with McLaren as part of his first title-winning season.
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