Mercedes appear to be in chaos and not because their best placed driver in qualifying, George Russell, was almost 2/3rds of a second slower than pole sitter Max Verstappen. Mercedes will start the GP a disappointing P6 and P7 with Hamilton ending qualifying just half a tenth behind his team mate.
What is astounding is the normally slick Mercedes PR machine is completely in meltdown as day in day out the team is sending out conflicting messages.
Hamilton denies B-Spec Mercedes
During the early part of the Bahrain GP weekend Lewis Hamilton was asked whether the team had a specific deadline by which the current W14 must perform before its ditched and the B-Spec car is launched.
“I saw those people talking about a Plan B,” said a bemused Hamilton.
“There isn’t a plan B! It’s complete rubbish,” he insisted.
“I mean ultimately, we are living in a time of cost cap. To rebuild and redo a design of car, you need to go back to square one and we don’t have time in the season to do that. So that’s not on the cards.
Mercedes on “wrong track” says Lewis
“We continue to evolve and build this car and try to push it to the absolute limit and I know I’ve got the best team behind me to close the gap, and it’s just finding that performance as fast as we can.”
Following a disappointing Friday practice Hamilton was quoted as saying the team was on “the wrong track.” A number of F1 observers read this to mean Lewis felt the continuity concept from least years car to theW14 was a mistake.
After a disappointing performance in qualifying today, Toto Wolff was again asked about the DNA of the current Mercedes W14. During the earlier interviews Wolff held the line that the team were working hard to unlock performance etc etc, but in a press conference with the written media Wolff did an astonishing U-turn.
Wolff admits car design is flawed
The Mercedes team boss finally admitted it was time to admit his team had pursued the wrong path in their car design. Many of Mercedes rivals including the resurgent Aston Martin have followed the Red Bull downwash solution, while Mercedes continued this year with the ‘zeropod’ design.
“I don’t think this package is going to be competitive eventually,” admitted an exasperated Toto Wolff.
“We gave it our best shot all over the winter, and now we just need to all regroup and sit down with the engineers, who are totally not dogmatic about anything.
“There are no holy cows and we need to decide what is the development direction that we want to pursue, in order to be competitive to win races.
Mercedes mixed messages
“It’s not only like last year, where you are scoring many podiums and eventually you get there.
“I’m sure we can win races this season. But it’s really the mid and long term that we need to look at, and which decisions we need to take.”
This seems completely at odds with Hamilton’s claims that having a plan B is “complete rubbish”.
However careful consideration of the detail may in fact reveal that Mercedes are just communicating their options poorly.
Wolff continued to say, “We are racers, and we are racing, and we will never give up fighting every single session to be on top.”
Mercedes efforts for 2023 now forlorn
“If you look at the pecking order, today, you say, well, it’s not realistic. But I’m looking at what can we find next week? What can we add to the car? What is the change of direction that we can implement? And how quickly is that, so that maybe we can turn the ship around this year?
“It’s just first qualifying of ’23. That’s why I don’t want to discount anything for this year, while being totally realistic that it [the car] needs a lot to change a lot.”
Wolff over rules his technical director
Toto Wolff is in fact drawing the line under Mike Elliot’s (Tech Director) belief in their underlying design concept.
At the W14’s launch Elliot stated, “When you look at the W14, you will see the DNA of the W13 but also a lot of evolution and detail improvement.
Elliot further insisted the team would not be copying others design ideas – ie the Red Bull downwash concept.
The team will clearly sit down and develop a new long term plan now Toto has declared “I don’t think this package is going to be competitive eventually.”
2023 tougher for Merc than last season
Of course the team are not going to give up on chasing elusive pole positions or the odd race win during the 2023 season.
However, much of Mercedes success in terms of podiums last year was due to Ferrari or Red Bull cars failing to finish. Those opportunities will be far fewer this year as reliability improves.
In addition, the Dan Fallows – ex Red Bull aero expert – designed Aston Martin is now in play and in the hands of Fernando Alonso will be a thorn in the side of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
Well done Aston. Did Seb retire one year to early?
It looks to me like Vettel left at the right time and left the field open to Fernando
who has fiii…nally got a competitive car that he deserves. He showed today what he could have achieved in F1 if McLaren had not played dirty in 2007-08 and he had taken certain correct career decisions. Then we would not have to suffer pretenders.
So ironically the team formally known as Force India who famously copied Mercedes car just a couple of seasons ago are now ahead of Mercedes due to aping the Red Bull concept instead.