Mercedes praises “great job” by Schumacher on the simulator that helped improve the W14 in Spain

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Mercedes scored their first double podium of the 2023 F1 season at the Spanish GP, and according to their Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin, work done by Mick Schumacher on Friday night at the simulator helped the team get the W14 “spot on” in terms of balance.

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team

In just its second race running a heavily revised W14, Mercedes was able to make “good progress” according to Shovlin, but it wasn’t all plain sailing. The team struggled for balance on Friday, but found a much better sweet spot from Saturday onwards, allowing it to have a decent qualifying and impressive race pace, with George Russell making his way from a lowly starting position of 12th to finish on the podium.

Speaking on a Q&A on Mercedes’ social media channels, Andrew Shovlin explained that the team found a solution to its balance problems partly thanks to the work done by the team’s reserve and development driver Mick Schumacher and the simulator team on Friday night:

“It’s fair to say the single lap [pace] was challenging on Friday,” Shovlin said. “There was a bit of overheating and the balance wasn’t quite in the right place, but the long runs looked pretty solid.

“As normal, we’re running the simulator overnight, we had Mick [Schumacher] driving, running through a range of changes.

“That work is analysed, and the results of that are then discussed with us when we come in on Saturday morning, and we can cherry pick the best bits of that work and get them onto the car.”

“It was definitely improved for Saturday, but what was really good to see was how strong the car was in the race, the balance was more or less spot on – it was looking after the tyres well, they were able to overtake.

“[It was] really encouraging to see George start on the same row as Sergio [Perez] and be able to finish ahead of him in the race itself.

“So clearly good progress, but a great job done by the team, in particular Mick and the simulator team overnight.”

Shovlin explained the team’s turnaround in pace compared to earlier rounds of the season are a result of both the upgrade package and the track-specific characteristics of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which puts more emphasis on the front axle and tyres, a trait that usually helps the W14 compared to the more rear-limited circuits like the season opener in Bahrain – the race in which Mercedes realised a change of concept was in need:

“ProbabLy both are true,” he said when asked if the pace was track-specific or a general step forward from the upgrades. “The fact is that the update kit works very well around circuits like Barcelona, with a lot of high-speed performance.

“Although the car itself probably would have been okay there, because we’ve been better at the fast circuits, the front-limited tracks, so we ended up with a really good balance and really good race pace.”

Despite a really good weekend overall, there are some communication issues that the team will need to address ahead of the next race, according to Shovlin. This is due to the very unusual clash between team-mates in qualifying, when Russell and Hamilton found themselves on the same piece of tarmac on the final runs of Q2 and made light contact, damaging Hamilton’s front wing.

Shovlin explained this was down to a miscommunication between drivers and pit wall, as both tried to pick up a slipstream from Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari as the Spaniard finished his lap down the main straight. The 49-year-old said that the race team on the circuit was focused on maximising race day, but now with a week’s break at the factory, the team will investigate and analyse how it can improve its processes:

“The drivers were trying to find a car finishing a lap in order to get a slingshot starting the lap themselves, so that would give them more straight line speed – and you can find around a tenth, maybe more – that car that was finishing then peels in and they can conduct the rest of the lap in clean air.

“The issue, put very simply, was that George [Russell] and Lewis [Hamilton] both tried to pick up [Carlos] Sainz as that slingshot. So Lewis got onto the back of him around turn 10, and as he then came around to start the lap, George was waiting because he knew that Sainz was coming – not realising that Lewis was just behind.

“At the racetrack in Barcelona, we were very keen to make sure we focused on the race itself and not worry about went wrong in qualifying. But now we’re here at the factory, we’ll sit down and we’ll look at how we need to change our communication to make we don’t confuse the drivers by not giving them the whole picture.”