Mercedes strategist James Vowles has suggested that fans bring their expectations down a notch or two after the Silver Arrows’ improved performance in Barcelona.
George Russell and Sir Lewis Hamilton were consistently running towards the top of the timesheets last weekend in Spain, and at the end of a splendid battle between the 24-year-old and the Red Bulls, Russell earned a spot on the podium for the second time this season.
Hamilton made an excellent recovery from 19th to fifth after contact with Kevin Magnussen on the opening lap, and he revealed that, while there was still some “porpoising” in the corners, it was more or less gone on the straights.
This is a cause for some optimism, and team principal Toto Wolff even said “you bet we can” when asked if his side can still play a part in the title race this season.
However, all the teams have a lot of data from the Circuit de Catalunya due to the plenty of testing and racing there in the past, and it has always been a circuit that has treated Mercedes well.
Therefore, Vowles advises caution before suggesting that Mercedes are getting back to their best with a porpoising-free car.
“We’ve had one race out of six where the car has been well behaved. It was a car that really was a proper racing car for once,” he said during Mercedes’ debrief YouTube video.
“We could set it up, we could tune it, we could play around with the settings and it would respond in a way that was predictable and the same couldn’t be said for the car that we had for the first five races of the season.
“However, we have to temper our expectations. It’s one track and a track that has suited our car for many years prior to this one.
“There is a lot for us to understand and learn. I think it would be wrong to say that the porpoising issue has disappeared.
“I think you still see it on our competitors and I am sure there will be elements of it coming back again as we build on our understanding and the foundations that we laid down in Barcelona.”
However, the Briton is satisfied that some progress was made, and affirms that, while the process will be a gradual one, the eight-time constructors’ champions can now start finding their way back to race-winning form.
“What I can say is we made a definitive step, a step in our understanding and the deployment of what we put on track,” explained Vowles.
“And we can build on that, and the same could not be said about the first five races with the car that we had there.
“We will move forward from where we are now but it will be a journey, it is not going to happen overnight.
“And we’ve got difficult tracks coming up, we’ve got Monaco and Baku which will throw up their own challenges and surprises.
“The difference now though is we have a car that is within touching distance of the front and a car that we can fight for a championship with.”
Russell’s podium finish in Spain was also Mercedes’ third of the season after Hamilton’s P3 in Bahrain at the beginning of 2022 and the young Briton’s podium in Melbourne.