In what can only be described as one of the off track Formula One stories of the decade, the Mercedes AMG F1 team is in a state of meltdown.
There was clearly tension throughout last season between the technical department and Lewis Hamilton over the future concept of this year’s car the team began designing last summer.
Hamilton unprecedented attack on team
In an almost unprecedented outburst directed at his team, Lewis Hamilton called for an apology following the season opener in Bahrain claiming.
Speaking to radio 5 live after trailing home almost a minute behind the leader Hamilton revealed:
“Last year, there were things I told them, I said the issues that are with the car,” said Hamilton.
“I’ve driven so many cars in my life, I know what a car needs, I know what a car doesn’t need.
Hamilton calls for ‘accountability’
Whilst not quite calling for heads to roll Hamilton made it clear there was significant division of opinion on how to move forward
“And I think it’s really about accountability. It’s about owning up and saying, ‘Yeah, you know what, we didn’t listen to you, it’s not where it needs to be.’”
The key moment which revealed the bitter disputes within Mercedes over how the car design should progress came when Toto Wolff visibly lost patience with the debate following the qualifying in Bahrain.
Wolff says Mercedes W14 deserves “trash can”
Speaking to Talking to ORF, Wolff revealed that simply changing their side pod design isn’t a quick fix.
“We might as well throw our car in the trash can. One team [Red Bull] is miles ahead. They play with the competition – they don’t even have tyre wear,” he said.
“I don’t think this package is going to be competitive eventually,”
“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.”
Dogma over design led to flawed concept
Clearly there had been a dogmatic attitude from Mercedes’ head of tech who insisted last year the “DNA” of the W13 car would remain despite Wolff suggesting otherwise.
For reasons explained here by TJ13, Mike Elliot the Technical Director had everything to prove with the new regulations as he replaced James Allison who had steered Mercedes to several titles.
Yet the W13 and now the W14 have proven to be flawed in their very concept and Elliot’s refusal to accept this surely means he will have to go.
Ex-F1 driver believes heads should roll
Former F1 driver and now TV pundit Ralph Schumacher believes Elliot’s future is now clearly in doubt.
“There has to have been a dispute,” he told formula1.de
“Somehow the technical director [Mike Elliot] must have managed to convince Toto Wolff again that the full strength of the concept can now be played out. And Toto, what should he do, he has to believe in his technical team.”
Schumacher believes Wolff has backed the technical team for long enough and has now been forced to side with those in the team who said the concept of the car was flawed.
New blood for new ideas at Mercedes
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the pecking order changes now,” adds the German. “That also happened at Aston Martin. [Andrew] Green was basically transferred, they got a new one from Red Bull [Dan Fallows].
“And now something is going to happen at Mercedes.
“Because, I’ll say it again, with a technical director who believes that a concept works and pulls for it so hard, you can’t change your mind overnight. So that I think it’s problematic.
“That would be my feeling that something is changing.”
Until Elliot is replaced it will be difficult to embrace a different concept for the Mercedes design team.
So for now, the cicil war at Mercedes is set to continue.
"We are not where we need to be and where we want to be"
Lewis Hamilton says he has "100% confidence" that Mercedes can fix the issues with their 2023 car 👇 pic.twitter.com/pXAs6sB3r5
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) March 16, 2023