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Formula 1

Three things that make Mercedes more of a threat in France

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

More upgrades, high temperatures and a favourable track layout should combine to make Mercedes more of a threat at the French Grand Prix as it chases its first win of the Formula 1 win season.

Mercedes has trailed Red Bull and Ferrari this year but has gradually improved its W13, solving the chronic porpoising problem that blighted its early races and subsequently adding more performance to the car as well.

The team has four podium finishes in a row although in that time it was only the British Grand Prix at Silverstone where Mercedes looked a real challenger to the top two teams.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship British Grand Prix Race Day Silverstone, England

That may change this weekend in France, where Mercedes is tipped to thrive on a smooth, fast Paul Ricard circuit.

The W13 in its current form performs better in medium and high speed corners than low speed and the car’s inherently poor ride quality means it struggles on bumpier tracks.

High ambient temperatures in the low to mid 30s forecast.

The Mercedes is very kind on its tyres and for the same reason has struggles switching them on in qualifying. So it should be at its best in qualifying and be able to manage the tyres in the race.

Mercedes used the Ricard track for a filming day before introducing a significant upgrade package back at the Spanish Grand Prix, an indication of how relevant a track the team thinks this is.

“I think the temperatures will benefit us, I think the slightly smoother track will also benefit us,” said George Russell.

“But I think as a team, we’re making a huge amount of progress at the moment and understanding what we need to do with the car to bring more performance.

“I think ultimately, that’s probably the biggest overriding factor as opposed to circuit specifics.”

After further developments arrived two races ago in Britain, Mercedes has new parts in France now as well – disclosed as a new reduced curvature floor edge to increase diffuser load, and circuit-specific internal louvres on the front brake duct exits to increase cooling.


“We’re asking for more performance,” said Russell on Thursday.

“And I think the performance always takes priority over the cooling.

“I haven’t actually seen it in the flesh as yet. So can’t quite comment.

“But I do know it should bring us a bit more performance. And we’re relatively confident that it should work as we intend it to.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Austrian Grand Prix Sprint Day Spielberg, Austria

Russell said that the “tremendous progress” has given Mercedes “a huge amount to be optimistic about”, especially as it is now within “touching distance” of the two leading teams.

Mercedes has not looked like a title threat this season and has probably fallen too far behind to haul itself into contention either.

Russell is fifth and 80 points behind Max Verstappen while Lewis Hamilton – who has now scored three podiums in a row – is sixth and 99 points off the championship lead.

Meanwhile Mercedes is 122 points behind Red Bull in the constructors’ standings.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Austrian Grand Prix Race Day Spielberg, Austria

Although both championships are serious long shots at the halfway point of the season, both Russell and Hamilton are confident that race wins will be achievable in the second half of the year.

“In the recent races we’ve really got on top of the car and what we believe we need to do to bring more performance,” said Russell.

“Whereas if we look back at the first six races of the season, it was almost trial and error, we were still really understanding what the problems were. And we didn’t have a clear direction, or we didn’t really know as a team the direction we had to take.

“Now we feel pretty confident we’ve at least got a channel to follow.

“Whether we can actually now translate that into performance is another factor. At least now we feel like we’ve got a clear direction.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship French Grand Prix Preparation Day Paul Ricard, France

Russell thinks the work Mercedes has done so far in improving its car could be something rivals have to go through in the future, if they “fall into traps” with their own development.

Team-mate Hamilton indicated that Mercedes has learned a lot from this particular process and that has made it stronger as an organisation.

“I do believe at some stage we’ll be able to compete with these guys,” said Hamilton. “Whether it’s this weekend, or in five races’ time.

“The journey is the important part. We started off not where we wanted to be, we’ve made progress, we started to reach a bit of consistency.

“Not a single person in our team has given up, and we’ve continued to push. So I’m really proud of the process and experience that we’ve had.

“Entering into season it’s not necessarily the one you would ask for but if anything it’s been a really valuable lesson learned for all of us, and experience.

“I think we’ve sharpened our tools in lots of other areas. So when we do get back to where I feel like we deserve to be, I think we will appreciate it that much more.”

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