The dominator of the past eight years was once again able to set a highlight on the home and farm circuit in Silverstone. Mercedes played along with the music in the UK and at times it actually looked like Lewis Hamilton might win his home race.
But was it just the track characteristics or did the extensive Silverstone updates put Mercedes back in contention at the front? Either way, the German team seems to have made progress, so that they are now even dreaming of the World Cup again.
“There is always a little hope, especially after this performance,” says Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. “We’ve seen that we can play up front.” Nevertheless, Wolff does not want to overshoot the mark.
“I think we still have to be realistic. The track suited us and we were good on both tyres. The trend is positive, but we’re not where we want to be yet. There are still a few races to come that will do us good , with quick corners. But overall, the others are the favourites.”
“In the first few races we struggled to survive”
While Mercedes focused on getting rid of bouncing at the start of the season, they can now finally focus on getting performance out of the package.
“In the first couple of races we were really just struggling to survive,” says Andrew Shovlin, senior race engineer at the track. “And the drivers were struggling to survive with a car that was incredibly difficult to work with. But we did a good job of scoring points and taking chances when others were unreliable.”
“Barcelona has been useful for us, but these last three street courses have shown our weaknesses. So we are in the process of solving the problems. But I would say that the path we want to take now is becoming more and more clear. And that is Very encouraging from a development perspective.”
“I think this update [in Silverstone] is along the line that we started in Barcelona. And it’s encouraging to see that it worked,” says Shovlin.
Team boss Toto Wolff still doesn’t want to be too optimistic, because after Barcelona it was already thought that the knot would burst: “We had moments in Barcelona when we saw the light at the end of the tunnel, but then the next three street circuits proved that we were wrong, so I want to be too optimistic.”
Did Mercedes bet on the wrong horse?
A big question remains whether Mercedes may have backed the wrong horse with the narrow sidepod designs, as the smaller teams currently prefer to copy Red Bull and Ferrari over the Mercedes.
Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott also did not rule out a change to the Red Bull concept and Shovlin also keeps a low profile about the technical path that you want to take for the coming season.
“We are currently in the concept phase for next year’s car,” says Shovlin. “We’re also looking at where we can create greater development opportunities within the car. But at the moment we’re still very focused on this year’s car.”
“We don’t know if we can fight for second place in the championship, but we don’t rule out that we can still fight for first place, even if that is increasingly proving hopeless,” Shovlin said.
“But we’re working flat out to further develop the car. That’s by far the most important thing: to show that we can solve these problems. That also applies to placing in the championship.”
“With these regulations, it was a challenge from the start to create downforce with a higher ground clearance. We therefore ride low. And that’s one of the things we’d like to develop and we’re making progress in that direction.”
“In terms of the concept of the car, we’ve changed our car a lot since the first race, it behaves very differently now than it did in the first race. Even though it looks quite similar from a distance to how it started, it’s quite a different beast,” explains Shovlin.
Wolff expects difficult times in Austria
The bouncing problem has been greatly improved. What Mercedes is left with is a car that Shovlin says is “still a little too stiff” in general. “But now it’s finally a car you can work with,” he says.
For the upcoming race in Austria, team boss Wolff expects a more difficult time for Mercedes, as the track in Spielberg is bumpier and you also have to include the curbs a lot. “There are some corners that our car hasn’t liked in the past,” he says.
“So that’s something we have to keep an eye on. But it’s a constant learning curve. I think it’s going to be very difficult to win there this season, so we have to do everything we can to get the car’s performance right optimize.”