Mercedes’ George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix fourth and fifth respectively, then third and fifth, then fourth and fifth again.
Don’t worry, hopefully the FIA won’t change their mind again regarding Fernando Alonso’s podium, and the result will stand for now, Russell fourth and Hamilton fifth on another sobering race for the eight-time Formula 1 Constructors’ Champions, although they were actually able to beat Ferrari this time.
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director at Mercedes said after the race: “The car is hard work to get into the right window and it’s not as easy for the drivers as it needs to be, but we’ve certainly found a better balance than in Bahrain and it has been a lot kinder on its tyres.
“We’re under no illusion that we have a lot of work to do,” Shovlin admitted. “We’ve been busy at the factory searching for performance and the initial findings are encouraging which gives us the motivation to keep working hard to improve.
“Today [Sunday], we did exactly what we needed to do, which is to maximise the potential in what we have. We’re looking forward to the next race in Melbourne; it’s closer in characteristics to Saudi than Bahrain, so hopefully we’ll have a car that we can fight for a podium.
“If there is any more performance that we can bring we’ll make sure we get it to the track,” the Mercedes engineer concluded.
Wolff: Bahrain still in our heads
As for Toto Wolff, he felt a bit encouraged by the slight improvement Mercedes showed between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, but lamented that the team was conservative with tyres asking their drivers to nurse them more than needed, which left some performance untapped.
“Today was positive and we’d rather take a small trophy home than none,” Wolff said, but that was before the stewards made a U-turn on their decision to strip Fernando Alonso of his podium though, with the small trophy now in the Aston Martin coffers.
“I think we saw some performance gains to Bahrain which is encouraging. It shows us that the development trajectory is going in the right direction,” the Austrian added. “I think both of our drivers under our guidance probably over-managed their tyres a bit, and we had a little more pace.
“Bahrain is still in our heads, and we could have maybe pushed more. It was a strong drive from George and a great recovery from Lewis to get solid points. Red Bull are still far away in terms of performance and that won’t be easy to catch.
“Nevertheless, today we’ve seen that our development is heading in the way we want to head,” the Mercedes boss concluded.