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After 7 years of reign as the uncontested top team in F1, Mercedes saw its streak come to an end with Max Verstappen’s drivers’ title in 2021. And following the radical rule revamp for 2022, the Brackley-based operation struggled for form. Mercedes’ run of eight consecutive constructors’ championships came to an end in disappointing fashion, as the German team only managed to score one win all season.
Lewis Hamilton went winless and without a pole position for the first time in his 15-year Formula One career. George Russell scored Mercedes’ only win as the team managed to make some progress towards the end of the season.
Despite saving a decent third place in the constructors’ championship, it was crystal clear that Mercedes had plenty of work ahead. There are some regulation changes for 2023, but these aren’t drastic enough to create the 180-degree turnaround that the German team needed.
How much can Mercedes improve from 2022? Can it overtake Ferrari as Red Bull’s main challenger?
Formula One Mercedes 2023 Team Preview: Better Days Ahead or a 2022 Repeat?
|2022 Constructors’ Standings||3rd (515 points)|
Saying that Mercedes’ 2022 ended in disappointment would be an understatement. The juggernaut of the V6-hybrid era narrowly escaped a winless season, finishing a distant third in the constructors’ championship.
With an aggressive interpretation of the new ruleset, the Brackley-based operation bet on a very unique concept: running with minimal sidepods. But the design proved to be Mercedes’ undoing, as its W13 F1 car struggled mightily with porpoising all year.
Undergoing a radical change in its design philosophy during the season simply wasn’t possible, which forced Mercedes to deal with an ill-behaving car. While the effect was mitigated at lower speeds, the problem became evident on straights and high speed corners. As a result, Mercedes’ expectations had to be adjusted on a race-by-race basis depending on the track’s design.
A 1-2 at Interlagos in the penultimate Grand Prix of the season saved the Brackley-team from its first winless season since 2011. But it was still very little for a team used to being the dominant force in F1.
Mercedes had to go back to the drawing board this pre-season, hoping to get around its porpoising issues. Some early indicators from the pre-season tests show that the team has managed to minimize or even eliminate it. But there is still plenty of catch-up to do in terms of raw pace if the German team hopes to match Red Bull.
For 2023, Mercedes’ most realistic expectation will be challenging Ferrari for the runner-up in the constructors’ championship.
Mercedes Drivers in F1 2023
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell return for a second year as teammates. The seven-time world champion is entering the final season of the two-year extension signed back in 2021. Russell has another year remaining, having been signed through the 2024 season.
|2022 Drivers’ Standings||6th (240 points)|
Last season saw Hamilton enter an uncharted territory. The seven-time champion had never gone a full season without winning a race and scoring a pole position. He had also never finished outside the top 5 in the points table.
But while both drivers struggled to deal with Mercedes’ W13, Hamilton often found himself lagging slightly behind his teammate. The 38-year old did occasionally work some magic on Sundays, but due to a general lack of single lap pace on Saturdays, Hamilton had to consistently dig himself out of a hole early on in the Grand Prix.
He finished the year in a disappointing sixth place, two positions and 35 points behind Russell. It was the first time since 2016 that Hamilton had lost to a teammate in the standings, and only for the third time in his F1 career.
The seven-time champion will try to win the internal battle against Russell this time. Contending for the record-breaking eighth title, on the other hand, isn’t a realistic goal for 2023.
|2022 Drivers’ Standings||4th (275 points)|
Russell’s move to Mercedes seemed to be a matter of time. The rising Brit star had already impressed on his impromptu debut in 2020, narrowly missing out on a win at the Sakhir Grand Prix. And after three years at Williams, the 25-year old finally earned his big break.
Taking advantage of his rivals’ reliability issues early, Russell was second in points after the Australian Grand Prix. But that was short-lived, as Mercedes’ lack of pace naturally dropped him down the order.
Despite the problems, the young Brit showed some remarkable consistency, scoring eight podiums tying Verstappen with 20 finishes inside the points. Russell only failed to finish one race after an unlucky first lap puncture put him out of the British GP.
After scoring an impressive pole on the wet in Hungary mid-season, the 25-year old closed out the year in style. Putting on a masterclass, Russell swept the Sprint and Sunday Grand Prix at Interlagos to score his maiden F1 win – avoiding a disastrous winless year for Mercedes along the way.
A repeat of 2022 as the “best of the rest” would be a great result for Russell. The young star impressed in the internal team battle against Hamilton, and will have another shot at finishing ahead of the seven-time champion in the standings.
F1 Mercedes Car 2023 – The W14
In order to significantly improve on what the W13 delivered, Mercedes would have to start from scratch. That, however, would leave the team even further behind, forcing it to go with what it already had in hand for the 2023 challenger. The W14 was unveiled on February 15.
Mercedes went back to the striking carbon livery it had run in 2020 and 2021, but this time in a bid to save weight. Like its predecessor, the 2023 Mercedes F1 car runs with extremely compact sidepods.
The Brackley squad believes that the solution to the underlying porpoising problems lies within the car’s suspension. Mercedes introduced a new system to allow for more travel, which should in theory help mitigate the violent bouncing without having to sacrifice laptime. Last year, the team had to strike a compromise in order to reduce porpoising, stiffening the car’s suspension and leaving some precious tenths on the table.
The W14 also features a new front wing and nose design. Mercedes adopted a concept used by Ferrari’s F1-75, extending the tip of the nose all the way to the front wing’s main plane. Interestingly, Ferrari abandoned this concept for 2023.
Will the W14 solve Mercedes’ headaches? The car had a decent showing in Bahrain during the pre-season testing. Although its long-run pace wasn’t quite on par with Ferrari and Aston Martin, the German team did finish second in the final day of testing after a late flying lap by Hamilton.
Mercedes plans on introducing a new rear wing design for the season in a bid to challenge its Italian rivals in the constructors’ championship. Catching up to Red Bull is an entirely different problem, however, and well outside the German team’s expectations.
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