It is back to the drawing board for Mercedes.
The Formula 1 team managed to secure second in the Constructors’ Championship this season, winning the coveted “best team not named Red Bull” award for the 2023 campaign. Yet, even that seemed a heavy lift, as both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell battled the other 18 drivers on the grid, as well as their own car, the W14, throughout the season.
Now, the team is looking ahead to 2024, and a completely reimagined challenger.
In an interview with Motorsport, Team Principal Toto Wolff outlined that everything is on the table as the team looks at options for the W15.
“We are changing the concept,” said Wolff. “We are completely moving away from how we laid out the chassis, the weight distribution, the airflow. I mean, literally, there’s almost every component that’s being changed because only by doing that, I think we have a chance.
“We could get it wrong also. So, between not gaining what we expect, catching up and making a big step and competing in the front, everything is possible.”
Some might say that Mercedes got it completely wrong for the 2022 season with the W13, including Wolff himself. Ahead of the 2022 campaign the team unveiled their design, complete with the “zero-pod” element that sent shockwaves throughout the paddock. But as early as pre-season testing before that season, it was clear there was a problem.
As Wolff described it, the team got the “physics” wrong with the W13, which led to the “porpoising” the team battled all year long. Upgrades and tweaks to the W13 helped turn their 2022 season around, but it was not enough, as the Silver Arrows finished behind both Red Bull and Ferrari.
This year, the W14 debuted with a similar zero-pod design, but by the Monaco Grand Prix the zero-pod design was gone, as Mercedes unveiled a design similar to Red Bull’s RB19.
At the time, Wolff cautioned that there are no easy fixes in F1.
“[The upgrades] won’t be a silver bullet; from my experience, they do not exist in our sport. We hope that it gives the drivers a more stable and predictable platform,” said the team boss. “Then we can build on that in the weeks and months ahead.”
“F1 is tough competition and a meritocracy,” he added. “We are not where we want to be but there’s no sense of entitlement. It’s just about hard work to get us to the front.”
Now, with a winter of work ahead of them, Wolff is again bringing the team back to the drawing board. And, as the team boss notes, the road ahead is long.
“I think we need to take it on the chin, be humble about it and consider it a good day. Nevertheless, there’s a Mount Everest to climb in order to catch up with Red Bull. I have no doubt that McLaren is going to be right in the mix next year, and maybe Aston Martin and maybe others,” said Wolff to Motorsport.
“We must leave no stone unturned, which we do in Brixworth and Brackley. And as tough as it is to be reminded that it’s just P2, it’s also a great, great opportunity to come back and strive for the stars.”