Race Weekend Central

F1 Midweek: Will Mercedes’ Upcoming Upgrades Give the Team Any Hope?

Mercedes is planning a number of upgrades (originally for Imola, now possibly for Monaco). What kind of impact can we expect from the changes? 

The first question I would ask is this: “Is it actually true that Mercedes has upgrades in the works?” If the answer to that is “yes,” then my second question would be, “Will it even matter?”

When both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished at least 50 seconds behind race winner Max Verstappen at Bahrain on March 5, it was clear Mercedes had whiffed on their car design. Was this the genesis of the idea for upgrades at Imola? Or was it sooner, because Mercedes had to know its car was lacking before that.  

See also
Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Canceled Due to Weather

The major upgrade, or change, will likely be the design of Mercedes’ side pods. Mercedes’ 2022 car featured the “zero-pod” design, which not only turned heads, but also turned Mercedes into a non-championship contender. It seemed like the zero-pod concept was an aerodynamic liability from the start, but either through arrogance, embarrassment, gamesmanship, or all three, Mercedes didn’t admit it until much later.   

Given Mercedes’ run of eight consecutive constructors championships from 2014-2022, many thought the team was on to something groundbreaking with their radical design. Others scoffed at Mercedes for their somewhat extreme deviation from a 2021 car that was essentially equal in performance to Red Bull. The doubters were correct in their assessment, and now, Mercedes is probably years away from catching Red Bull, if, indeed, they even catch them at all.  

Additionally, can Mercedes even trust the diagnostics on the new design, when it’s likely the same diagnostics that told them “zero-pod” was a good idea in the first place? 

Mercedes can run computer simulations and test new designs in a wind tunnel all they want, but they won’t get a true measure of their upgrades until they are observed in a “real world” situation. And the current “real world” situation is that Mercedes will get an indication of how the W14 drives in the wake of the Red Bulls, assuming a wake even exists when you’re so far behind a RB car. 

With the cancellation of the Emilio Romagna Grand Prix due to flooding at Imola, Mercedes now may have to reconsider implementing the upgrades next week at Monaco. Imola and Monaco are two completely different track layouts and configurations, and each requires vastly different car setups. So, what was already a difficult task for Mercedes just became even more difficult. Should they apply the upgrades at Monaco, where the processional nature of racing on the street circuit may make useful telemetrics hard to come by? Or, should Mercedes delay the upgrades until the Spanish Grand Prix weekend (June 2-4). This puts them even further behind in their quest to field a car that can be competitive with Red Bull. 

The bottom line is this: when faced with a long and arduous journey, the sooner you start, the sooner you can reach your destination. Mercedes should proceed with their upgrades at Monaco, temper expectations, consider the race somewhat of a test session, gather data, continue with newer upgrades, and hope it all leads to something the team has lacked in recent years: progress.  

Brad Pitt will star in Apple’s Formula 1 movie about a driver who comes out of retirement to mentor a younger driver and pursue one last run for glory. Will the public, F1 fans or not, be intrigued by this concept?

If Pitt’s character is a seven-time world champion, whose rival is an arrogant, villainous, and snarky yet talented driver played by Sasha Baron Cohen, then I’m all in.  

And I really can’t wait for the part in the movie when it’s time for a pit stop and Pitt’s team tells him to “box,” and Pitt replies “What’s in the box?”

The movie will be directed by Joseph Kosinski, best known as the director of 2022’s “Top Gun: Maverick.” The movie is being produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who also produced the 1990 NASCAR drama “Days Of Thunder.” Chances are pretty high that Tom Cruise will make an appearance in the film, probably uncredited, and probably also unwanted.

Hamilton will also serve as a producer through his Dawn Apollo Films company. There were rumors that Pitt would actually drive an F1 car on the track amongst other F1 cars. Those rumors were quickly put to rest, and in reality, Pitt is expected to drive a Formula 2 or 3 car at Silverstone, where filming is set to start during the British Grand Prix weekend of July 7-9. Pitt’s car will be on the circuit with no other cars around, so in lieu of experiencing what it’s like to drive alongside 19 other cars, he’ll instead get to experience what it’s like to be Verstappen.  

The film is currently untitled, but a few potential titles are floating around, like Citizen Chicane, Gone With the Wind Tunnel, Magnum Downforce, The Quickest and the Angriest, and Good Will Shunting

I wouldn’t expect Apple’s F1 movie to generate the ticket sales of a Fast and the Furious franchise movie, but I pray to God it’s more realistic than that drivel.

See also
Reel Racing: Everything We Know About Joseph Kosinski's & Brad Pitt's Upcoming F1 Film

Can struggling Ferrari make a statement at Imola, on a circuit named after Enzo Ferrari, the founder of Scuderia Ferrari Grand Prix, and his son Dino?

If Enzo Ferrari were alive today, he would be 100 years old, which is the same number of years ago it seems Ferrari last won a world title. It was actually 2007 when Kimi Räikkönen gave Ferrari its last championship. Apparently, Ferrari’s next title has been put on “ice.”  

Unfortunately, due to the cancellation of Imola’s race, Ferrari will have to wait until the Pirelli Italian Grand Prix on Sept. 3 to disappoint their rabid Italian fans. 

Is Nyck de Vries on the chopping block at Alpha Tauri?

The Dutchman has finished no better than 14th this season, including one retirement. Multiple reports indicate that Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko has given de Vries an ultimatum: improve performance by the Spanish Grand Prix on June 4, or else. So, yes, a demotion seems imminent, possibly to AlphaTauri’s jayvee squad, BetaTauri, or out of Formula 1 for good.  

Knowing your job is in peril a mere five weeks into the season has to feel like a kick in the balls, or, if you’re Dutch like de Vries, a kick in the “Nether” regions. Considering de Vries’ Dutch heritage, it seems AlphaTauri thought he may be the next Verstappen. They were right, but it was the next Jos Verstappen they got.

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