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Mercedes F1 Team Giving Up on “Miracle Update” to Focus on “Incremental Gains”

Why can’t Mercedes make a jump like McLaren? Wolff points to “a fundamental thing that we haven’t spotted.”...

Despite having repeatedly stated that there is no silver bullet in Formula 1, Toto Wolff has been leading the Mercedes F1 Team to find one. Unfortunately, it’s been almost three years with no luck. The werewolf lives and it’s destroying Mercedes standings in the Constructors’ Championship.

The search for the silver bullet could very well be the by-product of Wolff’s promise to Lewis Hamilton of an eighth world title. Two years later and Hamilton’s leaving for Ferrari. Now without the weight and pressure of that promise, Wolff seems to be taking his own advice and working on “incremental gains” rather than big leaps.

“I think what we are seeing in the car now is that those incremental gains that we are bringing, rather than a miracle update, are getting the car in a better balance window and making the car just have more performance,” Wolff explained.

Perhaps it was McLaren’s own miracle update that saw Wolff relishing the possibility of Mercedes’ own huge jump, but 2022’s W13 caused more damage to their progress than was initially realised.

Why can’t Mercedes make a jump like McLaren? Wolff points to “a fundamental thing that we haven’t spotted.” It’s something we’ve heard repeated since 2022 with commentators suggesting that they have a problem with their wind tunnel calibration. This is further exacerbated by Aston Martin’s own issues with upgrades built from data gathered from Mercedes’ own wind tunnel.

As Wolff told Autosport, “Whatever we see in the tunnel doesn’t correlate with what’s happening on the track.”

Totally Different Limitations

Mercedes’ 2024 challenger is worse than last year’s because some of the changes made at since then were overcompensating to solve those issues, but now they have different problems.

As trackside engineer, Andrew Shovlin, explained: “The fact is that the stopwatch doesn’t lie and we know that probably some of the changes we’ve made since the end of last year perhaps overcompensated with some of the development items we did.

“We have limitations with the car now which is a totally different limitation to what we had this time 12 months ago.

“We did so much work to solve the problems, we’ve kind of gone too far in that direction.”

So all the work the team have done to rectify their issues has backfired which Wolff described as “zig-zagging,” but now they feel confident they have a direction to focus on.

When asked specifically if they regret their silver-bullet solution, Wolff replied that yes, but now, in the last few races, they have “clear indications” whether the car is quick in high- or low-speed sections. This is information that hasn’t been clear in the past.

“So we are on a trajectory where we are making the car better,” Wolff said. “We can see that. It is never like a share price that goes up [in a straight line], it will go up like this [with peaks and troughs]. As long as the direction is correct, I feel more confident now.”

It remains to be seen whether this will be yet another false dawn and broken promise. Mercedes has investors to please and promises of improved performance are the best Wolff can provide without actual improvement, though this team has a pedigree that cannot be ignored.

Formula 1 is a story of peaks and troughs, teams do it rough, but that’s what makes them tough, and how they find the right stuff.

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