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Wolff says Mercedes are in ‘live testing’ as they look to find their feet with the W15

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05: Mercedes GP Executive Director Toto Wolff attends the Team Principals

Toto Wolff has admitted that Mercedes are in a process of “live testing” as they continue to try to find their feet with the W15, having changed the concept of the car for 2024 following two challenging seasons with the previous design.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell had both sounded a positive note earlier in the weekend at the Japanese Grand Prix, with Hamilton particularly optimistic about the progress the team had made after what he called their “best session” of the year so far in Friday’s Free Practice 1.

READ MORE: ‘I couldn’t turn’ – Hamilton explains Japanese GP issue that caused him to let team mate Russell past

Race day proved to be a little more challenging on the surface. Hamilton ended the race in P9, having struggled with “huge understeer”, while Russell finished three seconds ahead in P7.

Reflecting on their performance later on, team boss Toto Wolff acknowledged the early struggles that the squad faced in the Grand Prix, but suggested that the learnings are all a part of the process of fine-tuning the car.

“We had an atrocious first stint, which we need to analyse why,” said Wolff. “Very good second and third stint, and that is the positive that we take from the race.

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1

Wolff says that Mercedes are continuing to experiment with the W15

“It is live testing now for us. We’ve been on the back foot and besides our issues for two seasons, and now we’ve taken a different direction and I think this is happening.”

Asked if the Brackley-based outfit now have a better understanding of the W15, Wolff responded: “Much better, definitely much better. Lots more data to point us in the right direction, even if it’s not reflected in the result.”

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Having originally been set not to attend the race in Japan, Wolff changed his decision in order to be with the team as they embarked on experiments with the car during the weekend at Suzuka, something that he felt went well.

“The experiments have worked,” he remarked after the Grand Prix. “I think we have a clear direction even though the qualifying and race result doesn’t reflect it at all. We’ve aimed for a one-stop [strategy] and then we’ve found out it wasn’t possible, probably over-managed the tyres.

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“But at the moment we have picked up the speed. On the similar stint lengths like the others, we were competitive.”

The next stop on the calendar is the Chinese Grand Prix, which will take place from April 19-21 as the event returns for the first time since 2019. Wolff is hopeful that the experiments carried out by the team at Suzuka can be further built on there.

READ MORE: Wolff admits Vettel is ‘never a name you can discount’ amid rumours of F1 comeback with Mercedes

“I think I can’t wait to go racing in Shanghai,” the Austrian added. “We just need to have a better start of the weekend, and some of the improved concept that we’ve done here will be on the car, and then [we’ll] see what we can do in Shanghai.”

After four races so far in 2024, Mercedes currently sit fourth in the constructors’ standings on 34 points, putting them just one point ahead of Aston Martin in fifth.

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