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Formula 1

Does Mercedes' upgrade match its optimism? Gary Anderson's view

by Edd Straw, Gary Anderson
5 min read

Lewis Hamilton described Friday practice for the Monaco Grand Prix as “the best day we’ve had on track” so far in 2024 for Mercedes.

And although realistically it’s unlikely that topping FP1 and setting the second-fastest time in FP2 will translate into a run at pole position on Saturday, it was at least an encouraging start for the team.

Generally, Friday is the strongest day of a grand prix weekend for Mercedes and it will be difficult to replicate such lofty placings on Saturday, but it’s another sign of gently encouraging progress. Considering Monaco in the past two years has been a track that’s proved vexing for Mercedes in terms of balance and ride, this was a significant improvement.

“It’s been a good day, definitely, the best day we’ve had on track,” said Hamilton. “The car was feeling really positive, [I was] really enjoying driving it and the track is amazing.

“The grip was feeling quite good. We still have some challenges with the balance, but it was looking strong.”

Hamilton looked confident behind the wheel from the start of practice. The three-time Monaco GP winner argued that wasn't unexpected given how much he enjoys driving here, but did say the car felt better than expected.

“I do that in Monaco, so it wasn’t a surprise,” he said. “But what was a surprise was the grip level and how the car was reacting here. Definitely a more enjoyable ride than we’ve had here previously, in the last two years particularly.

“The second session, I don’t know if we improved or not. In the long runs we have work to do overnight, to try and make sure we can make it to the end of the race. We just need to improve in the long-run pace and graining.”

Team-mate George Russell also set a strong pace in FP1, although troubles with vibration when on the brakes that persisted into FP2 made his day more difficult. Russell also ran the upgraded Mercedes front wing (below), which there is only one example of.

“As soon as I touched the brakes, the whole thing was shaking to bits,” said Russell. “I don’t know what was going on. I tried my best to hold it as hard as I could, like a gorilla. It kept shaking.

“On a track like this, where you really need confidence to attack, it held us back. We decided it was best to call it a day during the long run, and try to analyse what was going on.”

Despite those concerns, he shared Hamilton’s belief that this was a strong start and described the car as the best he’s ever felt in a Mercedes in Monaco.

“We know how quickly everything changes, but today was one of our best Fridays, no doubt,” said Russell.

“The car is feeling the best I’ve ever felt around Monaco. So there are lots of positives. Everybody is developing quickly at the moment. You see how quickly the laptimes are compared to last year. We are potentially breaking lap records - hopefully it will be us. It feels good.”

Russell said he’s targeting a top-five position in qualifying and that appears perfectly possible. While realistically the third row would seem the most likely outcome with a smooth qualifying session for Mercedes, there’s always the chance others underachieve and a driver in a car that inspires confidence can overachieve. And if you start well up in Monaco, you generally finish well up - even if there are concerns about the tyres over a race stint.

That’s why the best Mercedes day of the year so far could lay the foundations for its best weekend - even if that’s still some way off where the team wants to be.

Gary Anderson on Mercedes' Monaco upgrade

Mercedes F1 front wing comparison

When Mercedes introduced its upgrade package in Miami, I wasn’t convinced for reasons explained in detail here. But Mercedes does now appear to be going in the right direction with the new front wing that ran on Friday in Monaco on George Russell’s car.

What I questioned was the fact that the top flap of the Miami front wing instigates crossflow. But for Monaco, the new front wing features a much more even trailing edge.

The first thing I would note about Monaco is that it is a bumpy street track with lots of surface camber change, which doesn’t always work well with the current ground effect cars. You have to run the car just that bit higher and because of this you lose underbody downforce.

You also need it just that little bit softer to give some compliance for those surface camber changes, and with no real high-speed corners being that little bit softer will help a car ride the kerbs.

Looking at the new Mercedes front wing, the actual overall camber through where I have placed the vertical yellow line is reduced. Introducing a ‘proper’ fourth element on the inboard end of the flaps, highlighted with a magenta arrow, means it now has a longer overall chord in that area.

It also means there is not such a wavy rear element trailing edge, which is highlighted with a red line. That avoids inducing the crossflow I talked about with the Miami upgrade, which will be detrimental to the flow structure to the leading edge of the underfloor.

Mercedes has also reduced the bulk and angle on the second element, which I have highlighted with the yellow arrow. This has also allowed the reduction of the slot gap, which is highlighted with the green arrow.

To have gone to the effort and expense to brew up this new front wing package, Mercedes must have had decent results from CFD and windtunnel research.

Monaco is not the best place to run it if you are looking for improved underbody performance, so it will be Montreal before we can be sure if it does offer an overall improvement, but Mercedes will at least be able to learn a bit about it here. And we’re also expecting to see other upgrades from Mercedes in Canada in two weeks that could work with this new front wing.

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