“May not be the fastest right away” admits Lewis Hamilton dampens expectations for 2023 after the shakedown filming day test revealed more issues with the Mercedes Formula 1 car. In his 17th Formula One season, Lewis Hamilton will make a fresh assault on a coveted eighth world F1 championship title to become the premier class’ sole title record holder.
After last season’s disappointment, however, Mercedes is trying a different approach in 2023, as Hamilton reveals.
“[Before the start of the 2022 season] I was optimistic because our people were optimistic,” he says. “We had big upgrades coming up and I thought, ‘Right, we’re going to hit it hard!’ But of course it was a shock to all of us [what happened to the car]. I think this year everyone is much more grounded.”
“You go more by the motto: We might not be the fastest right away, but we have the potential to be close.” Hopefully it will be close and hopefully we have the potential to close the gap early in the season,” Hamilton said.
Wolff: “Can’t compete straight away”
After a difficult start to the 2022 season, the British driver has scaled back his expectations for the new season:
“I wouldn’t say I’m as optimistic as I was last year. I would say I’m just more cautious. I know that whatever comes our way, we have the best team to deal with whatever comes our way.”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff echoes the same sentiment when asked about the outlook for 2023 confirming wins are very unlikely:
“I think [optimistic] is maybe too much to say because we are trying here to continue to be as we have always been, which is sceptical and humble. So I don’t think we’re going to be able to race right from the start.”
“At least that’s our mindset. But of course we learned a lot last year and I think we will translate that to the car. To be able to [unlock] the performance that we had in the car.”
Hamilton: ‘Greatest confidence’ in Mercedes staff
At the same time, Hamilton stresses that he continues to have full confidence in his team, as “you don’t lose the ability overnight” to win world championships. “So it’s no coincidence that we have won world championships in the past.”
Clearly, Hamilton is ignoring the case of Ferrari, or even Red Bull, who have both suffered large barren periods of bad results and no championships.
“I have the utmost confidence in the people I deal with,” Hamilton added. “The factory is getting bigger and bigger, there are more and more departments and more and more people coming in. So it’s always difficult to keep track of everything.”
“But when I sit in the office, which is my eleventh year now, we all say, ‘Gosh, it’s been a long time!’ but everyone still looks forward to working together. It doesn’t feel old, it still feels fresh.”
Hamilton: Team learns from 2022
Although Mercedes appear to have stuck with the ultra-narrow side-box design for now, Hamilton explains that Mercedes engineers have revamped the W14 compared to its predecessor and the 2023 car should feature different characteristics at best.
“Pretty much everything, so every element from the top of the rear to the top of the front. It’s mainly about how the car behaves. And last year’s car didn’t behave the way a race car should. And that took away the confidence of the drivers.”
“So we’ve been going over and over throughout the year the things that we wanted to change. And we think we’ve addressed those things. But once we’re in the car, we’ll know exactly how far we’ve tackled them and whether there’s more to do,” Hamilton says.
“The one thing we wanted to keep is our long run pace because that was very strong last year, I think our race pace was always stronger. So that’s the one element we really want to keep this season and also reliability. But everything else we really want to reinvent, redesign and hopefully we’ll see a more efficient car.”
Mercedes drop hints all is not well, changes are planned
However, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has said that his team could potentially change the narrow ‘zero-pod’ sidepod design on the W14 in the near future, but the Austrian also insisted that the poor performance of the W13 in 2022 was not fundamentally due to the design.
Speaking about the decision to retain the ‘zero sidepod’ concept in the 2023 car, Toto Wolff explained that the concept was not necessarily responsible for the W13’s poor performance in 2022, although he did indicate that a change in design could come fairly quickly at the start of the season.
“It’s important to be bold in this sport. I’m proud of the solutions we implemented on the car last year, but that’s not fundamentally the reason we didn’t perform well,” Wolff said at the W14 launch at Silverstone this week.
“There are no sacred cows in this concept. It’s not that we don’t want to follow anyone’s idea. We’ve kept the narrow sidepod, but you could see developments coming with upgrades.”
“The sidepods will change – not soon – but we are looking at solutions. It’s not an essential and fundamental part of the performance. Last year we learned a hard lesson because we thought we would bring a package of upgrades for test number two [the second salvo of winter testing in Bahrain] that was worth 1.5 seconds.”
F1 team ‘insider’ reveals suspension failure at Silverstone
TJ13 sources have revealed the team are hurriedly manufacturing metallic suspension arms after faults were found with the carbon bones they originally designed and fitted.
The fault is so significant a wrap fix often used when cracks appear in carbon bodywork is considered too big a risk.
Further, despite having passed the FIA crash test, the carbon tub was found to be flexing much more than the desirable amount the team intended.
This will make it more difficult to control the suspension set up and could induce further porpoising for the W14.
TJ13 is led to believe stiffening the tub is a relatively simple fix, though together with the metallic compound now being used for the suspension arms, both fixes will add significant weight to the car.
Fixing the suspension is a more complex problem for the engineers and designers at Brackley to solve. Further the replacement alloy for the original carbon suspension arms will respond differently from the intended flex profile and could exacerbate further the difficulties Mercedes experienced in 2022 with the tyres.