You don’t go from being the most dominant team in Formula 1 history to being an ‘also ran’ without explanation. So why are Mercedes AMG F1 on present form, the 7th best team on the grid in Imola?
First up. Daimler Benz invested up to 2 billion in creating the best V6 hybrid engine with a view to attracting more eyeballs on the sport’s pages than a $3bn a year global advertising budget could deliver.
The F1 regulations for 2014 saw a significant shift from aero related dominance to engine performance dominance. So who ever spent the most R&D on the engine was always going to come out on top.
This was evident as during the 2014-2021 seasons, the Mercedes customer teams on the whole did better than the Ferrari powered teams and Renault were simply midfield whilst Honda improved year on year.
Boom. 2022. Regulations change – just like the old days – and a change of the hierarchy comes to town.
No longer is F1 an engine formula. Once again it is an engineering and aerodynamic race for the best car.
Yet there are further explanations as to why Mercedes are falling behind their F1 competitors.
Daimler has sold down its share in the team and is not investing the kind of money it previously did.
Further, key personnel are no longer at Brixworth and Brackley and this is clearly hurting the team’s ability to stay on top.
Red Bull powertrain facility has poached a number of Brixworth key individuals but when asked to comment on the loss, Toto Wolff scoffed “it would make no difference”.
Christian Horner begs to differ. In an exclusive article with The Telegraph he reveals, “you’re not telling me you take out the head of mechanical design, the head of their energy recovery division… the head of manufacturing… that doesn’t have an effect?”
Horner further observes the loss of Andy Cowell – creator of the dominant V6 turbo Mercedes 2014 power unit – “has to hurt. Already last year this was starting to have an impact. They [Mercedes engines] weren’t as competitive as they’d been in previous years”.
Horner further reveals there have been high court battles over the contracts for the ex-Mercedes personnel costing millions. Despite Toto claiming the loss of these personnel “doesn’t have an effect”, Horner observes Mercedes wouldn’t have fought them in a High Court multi-million pound case. “You don’t’ don’t do that for the for the ones you want to lose.”
So what is the effect of all this?
Ferrari now has the dominant engine and RBR have an impressive chassis.
Mercedes have lost several key personnel and have designed a car for 2022 that in the words of Alain Prost is a “truck”.
These losses cannot be quickly regained and so for Lewis Hamilton searching for his statistical record breaking 8th world title, the future is grim.