Mercedes to have a bittersweet weekend at Imola

Mercedes to have a bittersweet weekend at Imola

Mercedes to have a bittersweet weekend at Imola

Mercedes’ struggles in the 2024 Formula 1 season continue, but at least they will celebrate a bright moment in their motorsport history this weekend at Imola.

Toto Wolff revealed Mercedes will have some more upgrades for their W15 this weekend at Imola and hopes the usual weekend format will help them refine the setup.

Mercedes had some upgrades for the Miami GP, but that turned out to be another dismal weekend for them despite Lewis Hamilton’s podium in the Sprint.

The eight-time F1 Champions are struggling to get a decent setup on their W15 that whose performance varies from session to session, so having a Sprint weekend in Miami with one practice session did not help.

This weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix will have a conventional format with three free practice sessions which should play into Mercedes’ hands given the upgrades they are bringing.

In Mercedes’ race preview, Wolff said: “We are now one quarter of the way through the season. The first six races have not been straightforward, but we have built a clear understanding of where we need to improve and shaped a clear path forward to tackle that.

“It will be several races before we see this bear fruit, but everyone is working hard to bring them as soon as is possible. In the meantime, we will be looking to maximise the package we have. We are bringing some more updates to Imola and hopefully they push us in the right direction.

“After two Sprints in a row, we now go back to the more usual weekend format,” he pointed out. “It affords us more time to refine the set-up, but Imola is still a demanding circuit that challenges both the car and the driver.

“It has several fast and flowing sections, but some low-speed corners too and a tricky, bumpy surface. It’s narrow, which makes overtaking difficult, and has plenty of elevation. All that combines to provide a stern test and one we’re looking forward to,” the Austrian explained.

Imola is the venue where F1 lost the great Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger 30 years ago, and Wolff did not miss a chance to mention them, he added: “We will of course take the time along with the rest of the paddock to reflect and remember Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna, who we lost 30 years ago.”

Not all doom and gloom for Mercedes

But Mercedes will be celebrating a major milestone in their motorsport history, which is their victory in the  Targa Florio back in 1924.

Wolff said: “As a team, we will also be marking the 100th anniversary of Mercedes-Benz’s victory in the 1924 Targa Florio. The Mercedes-Benz Classic team have done a superb job restoring the original car and we can’t wait to see it running to the Trofeo Bandini awards on Wednesday – and then on track during the weekend.”

In a press release Mercedes said: “George Russell will get behind-the-wheel of one of the original participating cars this Wednesday (15th May). The 26-year-old will pilot the two-litre machine, recently restored by Mercedes-Benz Classic, ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix weekend to collect this year’s Trofeo Bandini Award.

“The Award was established in 1992 in memory of the famous Italian racing driver who passed away in 1967. The trophy is given to a figure in F1 and selected by a special committee. The presentation takes place in Brisighella, a village in the Emilia-Romagna region of the country. George will drive the 100-year-old car from the nearby town of Faenza to the ceremony in the village square, celebrating the award and commemorating Mercedes’ victory in the Targa Florio,” the Mercedes statement explained.

Russell commented: “Mercedes-Benz has an incredible history in motorsport. Since joining the team back in 2017, I’ve enjoyed learning more about it including visiting the museum and ‘Holy Halls’ in Stuttgart.

“When the opportunity came up to drive one of the most iconic cars from the company’s history, I jumped at it. I can’t wait to get behind-the-wheel of the Mercedes 2-litre Targa Florio race car and get a sense of what the finest drivers of 100 years ago went through. The restoration by Mercedes-Benz Classic is second-to-none, as always.

“To drive such an amazing vehicle, not only to celebrate such a momentous victory in Mercedes-Benz’s history but en route to collect the Trofeo Bandini Award, makes it extra special.

“I’m looking forward to a warm reception in Brisighella and thanking the committee for their generous selection,” Russell concluded.

On the Trofeo Bandini Award, Mercedes explained: “The Award was established in 1992 in memory of the famous Italian racing driver who passed away in 1967.

“The trophy is given to a figure in F1 and selected by a special committee. The presentation takes place in Brisighella, a village in the Emilia-Romagna region of the country.

“George will drive the 100-year-old car from the nearby town of Faenza to the ceremony in the village square, celebrating the award and commemorating Mercedes’ victory in the Targa Florio.”

What is the Targa Florio?

Mercedes’ statement added: “A public road endurance race held in the mountains of Sicily, Italy, the Targa Florio began near the start of the 20th century.

“First run in 1906, it was one of the toughest competitions and became one of the most important for automotive manufacturers looking to show off their latest creations. After first tasting success in 1922, Mercedes entered the 1924 race with the 2-litre Targa Florio race car, the first project of then Chief Engineer Ferdinand Porsche.

“Painted red to deter local fans from impeding its progress, Christian Werner won the prestigious race in a time of eight hours, 17 minutes, and three seconds to take the German marque’s second victory.

“In 2022, Mercedes-Benz Classic decided to rebuild the original 2-litre Targa Florio racing car from the company’s own collection as authentically as possible for the anniversary – in accordance with the high standards of a factory restoration. It is the vehicle in which Christian Lautenschlager completed the Targa Florio in 1924.

“Werner’s winning car has not survived. The removal of the racing car from the Mercedes-Benz Museum was followed by a meticulous inventory analysis and extensive search in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Archive – the brand’s “memory”. Original technical drawings and historical photos were crucial sources for the authentic restoration and the Classic Centre carried this out together with a network of experts.”