Mercedes began the Miami Grand Prix weekend with great promise, showing encouraging pace in both Friday Practice sessions.
Free practice sessions rarely spark huge excitement and speculation, but given the unpredictable nature of the F1 field, there were whispers that Mercedes was back at the front after an encouraging day of Friday practice.
However, things quickly spiraled out of control for Mercedes, who took several steps backwards heading into Qualifying. It was clear from third practice that there were still issues plaguing the W13, as porpoising returned after an encouraging first day.
Porpoising has been an issue for Mercedes throughout the season, but Miami demonstrated a more pressing issue for the Silver Arrows. The reigning champions are yet to not fully understand their car.
No amount of upgrades will be adequate if Mercedes cannot be confident in the impact these updates will have.
Toto Wolff has made several comments about the correlation issues Mercedes are experiencing – which means the data from the factory in Brackley is not translating into on-track improvement.
There is concern that Mercedes pay the price for relying on “trial and error” to identify which upgrades will take the team in the right direction.
Mercedes should be pleased with their final result at Miami, as P5 and P6 seem a fair reflection of their current ceiling. This result, however, demonstrates where Mercedes finds itself as a team.
The Silver Arrows have shown they are able to separate themselves from the midfield pack on a good day, but fail to consistently challenge Red Bull and Ferrari.
On Red Bull and Ferrari, (especially given Red Bull's historically strong mid-season development) there is a risk that Mercedes will fall even further behind, with the main championship protagonists continuing to take steps forward.
Already far behind in the constructors’ championship, Mercedes could turn their attention to cutting their losses and going back to square one, in order to remedy their highly aggressive aerodynamic philosophy.
Miami might have buried any realistic chances of a Mercedes title charge, but if the last 8 seasons have taught us anything, it’s that Mercedes can never be fully written off.