Mercedes accused of sandbagging and mind games ahead of Azerbaijan GP

Mercedes have opted for an aggressive upgrade plan to close the gap to Red Bull.

Former Bridgestone engineer Kees van de Grint has questioned whether Mercedes are playing a bit of a mind game by publicly slamming their concept so often, especially after the Germans showed good pace at the Australian Grand Prix.

After underperforming in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff declared that a new concept of the W14 was going to be introduced, in a bid to catch Red Bull.

The whole mood amongst the Silver Arrows was downbeat, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell having spoken publicly about how much work the W14 needed.

Fast forward to the Australian GP and it was a completely different story, with both Russell and Hamilton having briefly led on merit at the Albert Park Circuit.

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Wolff even stated that Russell could’ve won the race had it not been for the race’s first red flag or his shock engine failure.

To go from having “given up” on the concept to suddenly being in contention for a win marks a huge shift in performance, with van de Grint wondering if Wolff “quietly hopes” the current concept will begin to work.

A fast-paced upgrade plan is in the pipeline for the Silver Arrows to try and return to the front, with an entirely new concept set to be introduced at Imola.

Van de Grint is actually disappointed that Mercedes have decided to completely change the car mid-season, after being pleased that they stuck with the ‘zero sidepods’ concept, given that it showed a sense of belief amongst the Brackley-based team.

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One thing which is for certain is that varied messages are coming out of Brackley, with their performance at this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix set to be fascinating.

“I liked that they stuck to their concept,” he told the Dutch edition of

“They had faith in that. Now you probably think it’s not such a good concept after all.

“Then I think, what did you discuss and analyse in the winter? Because this is a late conclusion, if you have to change now and want to change a whole concept. That might say something about the people who left.

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“I think the sounds are more in the panic atmosphere. You can also hear that from Wolff, he has actually already given up.

“But, that is of course also a bit of a feint because he quietly hopes that things will work out somehow.

“Russell was also quite fast, they were unlucky that he broke down there. It can’t all be in harmony there, a bit of chaos and panic.”