Mercedes put McLaren ‘on alert’

McLaren and Mercedes are set to fight in the Constructors' Championship for the remainder of the 2023 season.

In a dramatic turn of events ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, Mercedes unveiled what Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz described as a “quite a big upgrade” for their W14 at Spa, leaving McLaren on alert. 

This update, which comes just before the summer break, includes revised sidepods and cooling inlets, a new low-drag rear wing, and floor alterations aimed at enhancing downforce and reducing drag.

Ted Kravitz took the opportunity to examine the changes closely as George Russell’s W14 was displayed in the pit lane during a rainy FP1 session at Spa. 

Delving into the technical details, Kravitz explained the significance of the modifications to Mercedes’ car, which has been undergoing a continuous evolution since its rocky start.

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The first notable change lies in the enlarged sidepod air entries, enhancing airflow to the radiators and the rear of the car. 

This design modification allows for reduced use of airflow-obstructing louvres while maintaining an efficient cooling level. 

The reshaped sidepod design facilitates smoother airflow to the back of the car, contributing to increased downforce generation.

Kravitz also highlighted the importance of the updated floor, which creates more efficient vortices and plays a crucial role in generating downforce, particularly around the sides where the majority of the car’s downforce is produced. 

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These aerodynamic improvements not only bolster downforce but also address the issue of drag, which has been a concern for Mercedes in recent races.

One of the most significant updates is the introduction of a low-drag rear wing on Lewis Hamilton’s W14, used during FP1 at Spa. Kravitz emphasised that this change holds great importance for Mercedes, as a less efficient rear wing had previously hindered their performance. 

By opting for the low-drag rear wing, Mercedes aims to strike a balance between downforce and reduced drag, which could prove vital in their quest to regain dominance.

The timing of these upgrades is crucial, given McLaren’s recent surge in form after introducing a major upgrade package earlier in the season. 

With Lando Norris securing impressive P2 finishes at both Silverstone and the Hungaroring, McLaren had managed to surpass Mercedes in the constructors’ standings, trailing only Red Bull.

However, Kravitz believes that the latest modifications might just be enough to tip the scales back in Mercedes’ favour. 

He speculates that the combination of the revised sidepods, low-drag rear wing, and floor alterations could propel Mercedes ahead of their customer team, McLaren, in the competitive order once again.

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Unfortunately for Mercedes, the team’s changes didn’t put them on the front row for Sunday’s Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton lining up in P3 and George Russell in P8.

Hamilton was around a second slower than Max Verstappen’s qualifying time, while Russell was about 1.7 seconds behind the title leader.

The poor timing could have been due to the limited practice time with the sprint weekend format or could be an indication the upgrades haven’t solved their performance issues.