Mercedes hopes its improved performance last time out at the Australian Grand Prix wasn’t track-specific and will translate to upcoming circuits on the calendar.
After a troublesome opening two rounds that led to team boss Toto Wolff admitting its current car concept was flawed, Mercedes’ W14 package was substantially more competitive in Australia.
The German outfit’s two cars qualified second and third, with Lewis Hamilton eventually coming home second in the race, granting Mercedes its first podium finish of the season.
While Mercedes’ enhanced form in Melbourne was largely unexpected, technical chief James Allison has outlined that its performance level remained largely the same from previous rounds in comparison to Aston Martin and Ferrari.
Instead, Allison believes every team took advantage of Red Bull’s slight underperformance in qualifying to appear closer to 2023’s runaway leaders.
“Was it expected? Broadly yes, because the performance level in Australia was not markedly different to that in the other two tracks so far this year,” he claimed.
“Different yes to Red Bull, but not a completely different animal compared to the rest of the field.
“I think the biggest shift in Australia was that Red Bull were a little bit more off form in qualifying compared to the rest of the grid, and that sort of closed up the field.
“But if you look at the relative pace of our car to the Ferrari, our car to the Aston Martin, it’s been close-ish all year and yes, we are a little bit on the better side, but it wasn’t seismic.
Additionally, Alisson asserts that it is too soon to measure the extents to which the nature of the Albert Park Circuit and alterations the team made to its problematic car contributed to Mercedes faring better.
“So, was it expected? Well, we expected to be in the fight with Ferrari and Aston Martin and pleased to have our noses in front, but we did expect to be there,” he repeated.
“How much of the overall good results of the weekend was track specific and how much came from things we did? Time will tell.
“We’ll go to some more very different tracks in the next few weeks, and we’ll see whether this was the sort of initial bellwether of general uptick in our performance which we hope for, or whether it was related to the quite unusual track conditions that we saw this weekend in Melbourne.”
Following F1’s third flyaway event, the sport is encountering a four-week early-season break before a run of 10 races in 14 weeks, starting with the annual round in Azerbaijan next time out.
With the characteristics and track surface of the bumpy Baku City Street Circuit a complete contrast to the smoother asphalt of Australia’s Albert Park venue, Allison is remaining coy on predicting how Mercedes will fare in The Land of Fire.
However, the British engineer is optimistic the work Mercedes will continue to do on its capricious 2023 car over the break will enable it to be in an equally promising position as Australia.
“That is a very difficult question to answer, he reiterated when asked if Mercedes can expect to sustain a repeat of its Melbourne success in Baku. “They are very different tracks.
“Where Melbourne had been front-limited, putting more strain on the front axle probably Baku will be rear-limited, so it’s a very different set of circumstances.
“I think we got some reasons to think that as we keep working on our car, we will be able to make the hop from Melbourne to the different challenge of Baku and still have a good showing, but it will be only when we get there and put the car on the road that we will know that for sure.