The ‘big worry’ facing Mercedes after disappointing start to new F1 season

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Mercedes’ failure to hit the ground running in Formula 1 this season is likely to be “a big worry”.

That is the verdict of former F1 driver Johnny Herbert who has been surprised by the team’s underwhelming start to the new campaign which has seen it score just 26 points from the opening two grands prix in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to leave it lying fourth in the constructors’ standings.

Mercedes entered the season with renewed hope it would at least be closer to Red Bull in on-track performance after unveiling its revised W15, notably sporting a new chassis after two years of struggle following the introduction of ground-effect aerodynamic regulations in 2022.

The car, however, has lacked one-lap and race pace, leading to George Russell finishing fifth and sixth respectively in the opening two races, whilst seven-time champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton has only managed sixth and ninth.

Herbert, a veteran of 160 grands prix during his F1 career and a respected pundit, was expecting far more from Mercedes so far this year, even if it is only early days.

“It’s very weird,” said Herbert, speaking to RacingNews365. “I’ve looked at what they’ve done over the last two years.

“When they first came up with their original concept (the ‘zeropod’) a couple of years ago I thought ‘I like that’. It was really tightly packaged, looked racy, looked really good, but, of course, it was bouncing all over the place.

“They reduced that a little bit, then they got to the end of the year, and they said ‘Yeah, we know what we need to fix the car’, but it came out of the blocks and stumbled again. They had similar issues.

“Then they did the upgrade, which was better. but it still didn’t really move them that much further up, just sporadically it sort of improved.

“They went through the winter, and they again said ‘We know what we need to do’, but they’ve come out of it, and it’s the same. They are literally in the same position, with Lewis saying their problem is (pause) the bouncing again!

“So they haven’t been able to get rid of that, and that’s a worry, because this is the third season effectively where they haven’t got it, they’re just running around in circles.”

Herbert feels if Mercedes is unable to quickly address the issues with its car, it may have to wait until 2026 to be competitive again when new power unit regulations are introduced that will additionally lead to further aerodynamic changes.

Before then, it will have to negotiate the 2025 season without Hamilton who earlier this year stunned F1 when it was announced he would be joining Ferrari next year.

“It’s quite a worry whether Mercedes will be able to turn it around in the future, and maybe that’s 2026,” assessed Herbert. “That’s the only saving grace, that there’s a big change, and it might benefit them that way.

“But if you do look at these, let’s say three years this year, it’s not good and there must be a big worry there.

“They’re also losing Lewis, who has a good ability to explain what the problem is. They’ve adapted a certain amount of things, but they still haven’t been able to turn it around.

“It’s a worry for them because everybody else is getting better, like Ferrari, who have improved. The McLaren is better than it started last year, so they’ve improved, yet Mercedes are fighting for, what was it, sixth and ninth (in Saudi Arabia)? That’s not what they’re looking for.

“Then there’s George, who is effectively going to be the one steering them in whatever direction that might be.

“Yes, you’ve the designers and engineers, and they have their ways of getting the concept out there. And then George has to try and help steer things. After three years, the steering has got them nowhere. It’s not a good sign.”

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