What was once the most smoothly oiled Formula One team has been in relative chaos in 2022. Mercedes W13 car on track has spectacularly fallen below the standards of the previous 8 racing machines delivered from Brackley and off track the team are far from harmonious.
Lewis Hamilton heaped praise on Adrian Newey as a ‘genius’ car designer during the Thursday media events in Zandvoort. The effect was to point the spotlight at his own team’s failings in the technical department and build pressure on Mercedes technical officer James Allison.
Mercedes 7 time world champion driver does not believe the revolutionary ‘no sidepod’ design of this year’s W13 car should be carried forward into 2023. However, it appears Toto Wolff and the team disagrees with Lewis.
Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz asked Lewis, “The team seem to insist on paper, wind tunnel data, all of this blah blah blah, its [the W13] effectively a good car if we can get it sorted.
“You seem to suggest otherwise,” added Kravitz. “Are they realising that as well?”
“I think so’” replied Hamilton who added, “There are bits of it that are good, there’s performance in there, its just whether you can utilise the performance.
“You want a car that works on every single track you go to.”
Hamilton’s reference point again is the Newey designed car.
“The Red Bull seems to work in the majority of places. It’s understanding why [ours doesn’t,” added Hamilton.
“There’s loads of bits of this car that we would change,” correcting himself Lewis then said “that I would change.”
During the post qualifying ‘notebook’, Kravitz revealed conversations he’d had with Toto Wolff suggested the team’s designers were in disagreement with Hamilton.
“Where are on the ‘do we throw away this Mercedes car concept?,” Kravitz asked rhetorically.
“It seems like Mercedes can understand how he’d [Hamilton] be frustrated with this car with it’s no side pods. But it seems from what Toto was saying that they are going to carry on with it [the car concept],” revealed Ted.
“It’s not the fact that the side pods don’t exist and the floor at the ack is wider [than the Red Bull] that’s particularly the problem.”
“It’s the way they run the suspension, its the way they run they’re not able to run the car so close to the floor, that is the problem.”
Interestingly Kravitz then revealed, “But it’s not far off from what they believe will be golden for 2023. So even though Hamilton might be saying its time to ditch this concept, that’s not the message I was getting from Toto Wolff that Mercedes are actually going to do.”
“They’re starting to better understand the car is the other thing he [Toto] said, to understand why we were so far off in Spa and we don’t think its because the car doesn’t have any side pods, whereas the Red Bull Lewis applauds obviously has big side pods.”
“They think all of the work they have done to decrease the size of the side pods will pay off for them and despite what Hamilton says they will continue with that concept of car next year.”
The problem for Lewis is having spent several months designing the W13 concept the latent tendency of the Mercedes technical team would be to defend it to the hilt, despite the car clearly being hit and miss.
Mercedes have trumpeted false dawns this season with car upgrades in particular for Barcelona and Silverstone. These upgrades have not delivered the knockout punch the team’s drivers need to win races.
In fact Mercedes position in the constructors title race is probably false too. Had Ferrari and Red Bull reliability been similar to the Silver Arrows and had Ferrari not made strategy error after strategy error, Mercedes would be a long way behind Ferrari unlike the mere 41 points they are today.
Ferrari have thrown away over 100 points from Charles LeClerc’s title chase alone and the direct beneficiary of these mistakes and reliability failures has been Mercedes.
I would be easy for the team to delude themselves they are not far away from getting the W13 ‘golden’ and winning races, but next week in Monza will see the silver arrows faced with a similar challenge to the one they failed to meet spectacularly in Belgium last weekend.
If the team’s performance improves relative to Red Bull and Ferrari when compared to their miserable outing in Spa, maybe the technical department’s claims they can improve this car concept will carry more weight.
If not, then James Allison needs to swallow his pride and listen to Hamilton before its too late and the 2023 season is sacrificed to a revolutionary F1 car design concept which as yet can’t win races.