F1: Mercedes prepare Imola upgrades– but George Russell says team “can’t get carried away”

George Russell has tried to reduce the excitement that the upgrades Mercedes are bringing to Imola will drastically improve the team’s performance.

The Silver Arrows have openly shared that they are bringing modifications for their W14 car to the Emilia Romagna GP. These come after another underwhelming start to a campaign in 2023 for the team.

George Russell has had a mixed early part of 2023 himself. The British driver earned points at the first two rounds in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, but then suffered misfortune in Melbourne.

His No.63 Mercedes experienced engine troubles, forcing Russell to retire.

Azerbaijan then saw further struggles as the Silver Arrows driver exited qualifying in Q2. However, he did recover to P8 in the Grand Prix.

Last time out in Miami was a much more promising showing. He finished in P4, ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, and looked on par with those around him.

Of course, this could be better. George Russell thus hopes that Mercedes can create a solid base with their Imola upgrades – although does not expect massive performance improvement just yet.

“Imola is a new weekend, we’ll have some new bits on the car,” said Russell, via Autosport. “Hopefully that’s positive. It’s not going to change the world for us in the short term. But hopefully it’s a step in the right direction.

“I think we can’t get carried away. We need to do the talking on the track and see how the upgrades perform when we get there. Fingers crossed they’re brilliant, but we’ll only know that on Friday morning.

“The car is quite challenging to drive at the moment,” he added. “We’ve got a lot to improve. As I said, we know where we are at the moment.”

What upgrades are Mercedes planning for Imola?

Mercedes boldly stuck with their “zero sidepod” concept, which they unveiled in 2022, for this year. Despite last year’s car having multiple performance limitations, the engineers in Brackley believed that this was the way to go.

2023’s W14 saw an enhancement of this idea, with a cannon-style cooling system reshaping the car’s profile. Unfortunately, though, Mercedes’ car has still proven no match for Red Bull this year.

The team has taken just one podium from the first five rounds when Lewis Hamilton finished second in Australia. Although they are within touching distance of Ferrari and Aston Martin, Mercedes are nowhere near Red Bull.

The German marque has thus decided to make sweeping adjustments to their 2023 charger. Among multiple upgrades coming to Imola, Mercedes have confirmed that they are abandoning the “zero sidepod” style – and are bringing a unique new concept.

But that’s not all. Toto Wolff (via Sky Sports) has confirmed that changes to the floor and the front suspension will be coming to Italy. Overall, this is an incredibly large-scale re-tuning so early into a season.

The dramatic nature of these Imola upgrades is maybe why George Russell is staying reserved about Mercedes’ chances.

Meanwhile, team principal Toto Wolff has outlined what he wants from these new parts.

Toto Wolff on Mercedes’ revamp

Like his driver, Wolff wants the W14 development to improve the car’s foundations. From here, Mercedes can thus look at extracting further performance as the year progresses.

“I think what we’re trying to do with the upgrade is create a new baseline for us to take question marks out of the equation,” he said, via Racing News 365. “To say, ‘This is not a problem now that we have gone to a different spec’. And that is, for example, front suspension.

“We are also looking at bodywork solutions that are, let’s say, more conventional than others that will create a different airflow. It’s almost like a reset to what would have been a good start 12 months ago. Then [we will] try to add performance to the car. But at the moment it’s just the lack of understanding.”

Mercedes will thus hope the upgrades that they bring to Imola this weekend will have the impact they desire.

Featured image credit: Getty