With just days before the factory at Brixworth closes for the Christmas break, Mercedes have revealed to their fans they are on top of the race to deliver the W14 car for 2023. The video is a teaser as it reveals no details of the car just a vision of engineers and the noise of the power unit.
Mercedes appeared in Bahrain last season with a revolutionary ‘zero sidepod’ designed car that became the talk of the paddock. However, the adulation for the slimmed down Mercedes look quickly fell away as the W13 car failed to deliver on its promise.
W13 was track specific
In fact, while the Mercedes design worked better at smooth purpose built circuits it was as though the engineers at Brackley had failed to learn the lessons from the late 1980’s when ‘ground effect’ downforce was previously allowed as part of the F1 regulations.
Back then the cars porpoised and bounced and many of the tracks of yesteryear were surfaced more poorly than today’s venues. Yet the Mercedes 2022 car design required the car to run very low to the asphalt which exacerbated the problem of bouncing.
Throughout the season Mercedes brought ‘game changer’ upgrades to the car but were never really in the hunt for race wins until Brazil.
Hamilton wants to scrap the car
Lewis Hamilton demanded the car concept be scrapped as early as the Canadian GP though the technical team led by James Allison refused to accept the W13 was fundamentally flawed.
Whether Mercedes will start with a blank piece of paper as they design the W14 is not clear, though team boss Toto Wolff recently admitted, “We lost many months of development because we simply had to solve the the porpoising problem before being able to actually add performance back into the car.”
“Because whatever we added in terms of downforce went nowhere – the drivers couldn’t feel it, the car became even more unpredictable and the bouncing got worse. So considering the six months delay in putting performance on the car is something that will be tremendously difficult to catch up against Ferrari and Red Bull.”
Wolff accepts concept must change
Yet Toto Wolff sat on the fence as the internal Mercedes debate raged over whether to scrap or develop the W13. However, Wolff recently accepted, “The DNA of the car is going to change for next year, that’s clear,” said Wolff.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that our bodywork is going to look very different. But certainly what is part of the DNA of the car, the architecture of the car, will change for next year.”
The world off Formula One at present sees the ‘big 3’ at the top of the sport though hopes remain that the long term effect of the cost cap will bring the midfield teams closer to F1’s big boys.
Mercedes still likely top 3
The FIA’s head of single seater performance, Nikolas Tombazis believes that the new 2022 car design regulations have improved the sport.
“I think the cars were able to follow each other, and in combination with the tires, it helped.”
“Clearly a good race needs to be close, [cars] fighting, and in the second half of the season it was a bit more of a clear-cut winner of course.”
Of course Alpine, Aston Martin and McLaren are in re-building projects which is why they are less competitive however Tombazis is positive the F1 cost cap will eventually level the playing field.
Cost cap will take years to level up
“The fact is the cost cap will take years to sink in, there’s still an initial advantage for people, and I think initially it was bound to be the better-off teams who adapted better to the rules,” Tombazis said.
“I think it is an outcome of the first year of the regulations—but the gaps were very low for it being a first year. I think if it was the fifth year like that it’d be a worry.
“If you look back at 2014, 2009 or 1998 I guess, those first years (of regulation resets) usually had some fairly big gaps and I think this has been much less.”
The F1 cost cap should longer term prevent the bigger teams from persistently developing better design and manufacture facilities than the rest of the entrants can afford. Though it will take some time for the others to ‘catch up’ given a number of teams as yet don’t have enough finance to worry about breaching the cost cap.
W14's first words! 🤩
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) December 22, 2022