The German manufacturer had the first run of its upgraded F1 challenger on a proper circuit in Spain this weekend, after the parts appeared originally in Monaco. 

And as Lewis Hamilton put himself in contention for a front row start, before a collision with team-mate George Russell damaged his car and compromised his later form, Mercedes says it has taken huge encouragement from what it has seen at Barcelona. 

Team boss Toto Wolff said that as well as the performance progress it has experienced from the car changes, of more significance are the answers about just where it needs to pursue added pace now. 

“I think it's solid,” he said about the current state of the W14. “I think we should have been right behind Max [Verstappen], and this is what we've seen after FP3 where we felt we had something in the bag. And that's why the disappointment is big, because we expected more.  

“But I think it is a new baseline. It is from where we can continue to work with a certain stability, and without needing to question certain parts of the car, whether it's the bodywork, the floor, or the front suspension. It is now established, and this is what we are taking forward now.” 

The AMG Mercedes team conduct pit stop practise on the Mercedes F1 W14 of George Russell

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Wolff said that Mercedes’ hopes of progress before the update were hampered by it not knowing what factors were holding it back. 

But now it has adopted a downwash solution of sidepods and revised its front suspension, it finally has answers about just where the car is lacking compared to Red Bull – which will make it easier to move forward. 

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“I'm of the belief that this car is now a solid baseline,” he said. “There's no more talk about changing the regulations, raising the floor edges, and the bouncing is a de facto non-existent topic anymore. That did happen in qualifying, but we know which direction we should have gone.  

“It is from here now we can seek performance, downforce, and all that.  But obviously with the caveat that you can get it very wrong with the tyres.  

“That's why you see these massive swings between team-mates, and swings in performance depending on the ambient and track conditions.” 

But while upbeat about where the W14 stacks up right now, Wolff does not shy away from the fact that there remains a gulf in performance between Red Bull and his own squad. 

Asked by about how far adrift of the world champion team he felt Mercedes was, Wolff said: “Not to give you an answer, but I simply don't know. I think Verstappen is just on a different level. It pisses me off to say that, but that is the reality.  

“It [F1] is a meritocracy. They have just done the best job and the driver is driving excellent. They are just far away and that is something which only we have in our hands to get under control.” 

2023-06-04T12:28:17Z dg43tfdfdgfd