One of the surprises of the 2022 Formula One season was how uncompetitive the Mercedes W13 proved to be. Another surprise was how newbie George Russell appeared to be arable to adapt to the cars foibles while 7 times champion Lewis Hamilton fared significantly worse. Just four races in and team boss Toto Wolff was pondering whether the fundamental design of the W13 was flawed, though a narrative that was to continue throughout the season began to emerge – ‘unlocking the potential’.
“I wouldn’t say there is such thing as a concept being wrong. But is there a part of what we have done that simply doesn’t work with the regulations, and what is it?,” mused Wolff.
Lewis Hamilton uncertain over W13 potential
Lewis Hamilton was reticent at that time to call for a design revolution. When asked about the W13’s fundamentals rolling the race in Imola, Hamilton was uncertain. “It’s all questions that are reasonable. I can’t say whether the concept is flawed; I am not an aerodynamicist,” he said
“At some stage we will have a better understanding of whether that is the case or not.
“Maybe all of a sudden we will fix the bouncing and unlock more potential. It is difficult it write it off. Hopefully it will come to light soon and then we can start putting our focus on to the solution because we haven’t found the solution yet.”
Hamilton more downbeat
After three more F1 races Lewis was more downbeat. “I pray that the car is not like it was in Monaco,” Lewis said when asked what he expects from the next race in Baku.
“It [Monaco] was the worst moment I have experienced in this car so far, simply because of the bumps. I want them to go away now – my teeth and jaw were vibrating so badly and I finished the race shaking.
Just one event later after Baku, Lewis worse moment had come again.
“That was the most painful race I’ve experienced. The toughest race I’ve experienced,” Hamilton said. “I don’t want to have that bouncing again. I’ll do anything to avoid having that again.”
Toto Wolff uncertain on how to proceed
Following the mid-summer break Toto Wolff seemed uncertain as to the way forward for 2023 and given his recent video release reveals the direction of the W13 was decided in October 2021, the team were close to their decision deadline.
“In this very moment, to take a decision for next year, whatever it may be, changing the concept dramatically – how can you be sure that that’s the better direction to go because clearly we’ll be starting a little bit way back?
“That is going to be part of the decisions in the upcoming few weeks about what we want to do about it.”
Mercedes AMG F1 tech division fight back
Mercedes technical division then fought back against the tide of opinion that they should start again with a blank sheet of paper for 2023.
“Without going and running a development on the concept we’ve got, and running a development on a different concept, it’s hard to know what it will be worth at the end,” the teams technical officer Mike Elliot revealed at the Singapore GP.
“What you’re seeing in terms of performance and the way it swings from race to race as a consequence of that, and that’s a mistake we’ve known about for a while, and something we’ve been correcting and that’s why our performance has gradually got better.
“But it’s not something we can fully correct for a little while yet, and we will do over the winter,” he revealed.
Mercedes F1 challenger for 2023 ‘a development’
Clearly Elliot’s view was the concept of the W13 should be retained and the flaw could be ‘corrected’ over the winter.
formula1.com now confirms that Mercedes will not significantly deviate from their W13 design as they develop their challenger for the 2023 Formula One season.
Despite the porpoising issues reoccurring late in the 2022 season, Toto Wolff confirms the car will be different “but it does not necessarily mean that our chassis will look very different from that of the W13.”
From a visual perspective this would suggest the team will retain the “zero sidepod” concept although the FIA change in regulations will see the floor edges extended by some 15mm.
Hamilton revisits his view on ‘worst’ F1 car
Lewis Hamilton suggested mid-season the W13 “was not the worst car” he’d ever had to drive and reflected on the difficulties he’d had with the 2009 McLaren.
However at the season finale Hamilton joked he may “pull a sickie” for the post race end os season test.
When asked by Autosport what the team needed to address over the winter, Lewis replied, ““Brakes, bouncing is probably number one, drag is probably number two,” he said. “Or equal number one. There’s loads of other things.
Even then there was hope in Hamilton’s final comments that the W14 would be a revolution not a development of the W13.
Problems for Mercedes to solve
“We’ve obviously got [to find] some downforce, we just need to build a much more efficient car.
“And I think everybody in the team knows exactly what are the problems, and where they are, and where we’ve gone wrong and I’m pretty confident that they’re not going to build the next car with any of those characteristics.
“So I’m looking forward to the end of Tuesday, which is the last time I have to drive this thing. And I don’t ever plan to drive this one again. It won’t be one of the cars that I request to have in a contract!”
Of course it is difficult for the design team in Brackley to accept they should start from scratch and there are logistical problems with that approach too. A completely new car for 2023 is as much as a gamble as it was in 2022 and Mercedes believe following the race win from Russell in Brazil they have closed the gap on the frontrunners.
One final message from the Boss before we race into 2023. 😎 pic.twitter.com/hv4uAG2qYO
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) December 31, 2022