Lewis Hamilton returned to the Formula One paddock in Jeddah a more contrite figure than was visible tearing into the team at the first race of the season 2 weeks earlier. Hamilton had accused certain senior decision makers of “not listening to him” over the flaws in the 2022 W13 car and demanding they become “acceptable” for these decisions.
This attack from Hamilton hardly reflected the “no blame” culture we have become used to hearing Toto Wolff describe as the Brackley culture.
A subdued Hamilton admitted at the drivers’ press conference his rhetoric two weeks earlier in Bahrain was excessive.
“In hindsight, looking back it wasn’t necessarily the best choice of words,” said Hamilton.
“Of course there are times where you’re not in agreement with certain team members, but what’s important is that we continue to communicate, we continue to pull together.”
Clearly the big Brackley pow-wow following the Bahrain GP was a place for frank exchanges and Lewis’ renewed ‘let’s all pull together’ message was a sign he realised for now his fate was sealed.
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No B-Spec Mercedes for 2023
Lewis, George and the team are in reality stuck with their original concept of how top go F1 racing ground effect style and realistically there’s not a lot they can do about it this year.
Hamilton had dismissed out of hand the suggestion in Bahrain that Mercedes had a B-Spec car in the pipeline that would replace the current W14 and the entire flawed concept behind it and its predecessor.
“I saw those people talking about a Plan B. There isn’t a plan B! It’s complete rubbish,” said Lewis to Sky Sports F1.
“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.
“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.”
Mercedes adopt a different mindset
So what in reality did Toto mean when he somewhat petulantly declared after the first qualifying session of the season this Mercedes F1 car would never be competitive.
“I don’t think this package is going to be competitive eventually,” a candid Wolff said.
“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.
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Clearly according to Lewis there is no wriggle room for Mercedes to do an about turn and adopt a Ferrari or Red Bull solution to the new regulations because the cost is prohibitive.
It will in fact be 2024 before Mercedes can clear the decks and design a new chassis and aero solution more in line with those presently leading the field.
In the Saudi GP the Mercedes performed better than in Bahrain with George and Lewis finishing P4 and P5 respectively.
‘RUUUUUSSSSELLLL’ 🏆😅 pic.twitter.com/JAGO8RGiT3
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) March 19, 2023
Mercedes current position flatters to deceive
However, Mercedes results must be tempered by the fact they have benefitted from LeClerc’s DNF in Bahrain along with Lance Stroll’s in Jeddah.
And while at present Mercedes are tied for P2 in the constructors’ championship with Aston Martin, this position flatters them mostly due to Ferrari being out of sorts in Saudi Arabia.
Yet its unclear where Wolff’s new found optimism is founded and his rhetoric poses more questions than it answers.
“We headed into one direction last year and we wanted to make it work, and it worked and it got better and better,” said Wolff in Jeddah.
“Dead end street” means copying rivals
“But now, we really realised it’s a dead-end street. These are the facts and everybody knows that now. So we turned around and we’re running fast out of that dead-end street.”
But what does this mean? We already know there’s now new chassis based on a different philosophy coming this year.
Clearly Toto and the team are still touchy about their concept U-Turn incoming for 2024 when asked whether the team should take inspiration from their rivals ideas.
“I don’t know you can call it a Red Bull or Aston Martin concept,” Wolff retorted.
Imminent notion of a Mercedes U-Turn is fake
“If it looked like an English double decker bus, we would do it if it was fast. Put a little Red Bull sticker, if they want to put it on.
“It’s just about pure performance; we have no dogma on who invented it.”
Parsing the tea leaves that is Toto’s pigeon English (convenient for ambiguity at times) here’s what TJ13 believes Mercedes will do over the coming weeks.
The idea of an imminent Mercedes U-Turn is just fake.
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Mercedes to adopt Red Bull and Ferrari aero concepts
As far as possible, Mercedes will begin to adopt the Red Bull downwash concept with impending upgrades. Though this will take time to model, test and produce.
Lewis is struggling with the lack of downforce at the rear of the car so this will be a priority.
The planned Imola upgrades are in the pipeline and will arrive as planned, though from thereon the car will begin to look significantly different.
The zero pods will go and Mercedes will build a kind of hybrid car based on their current chassis concept but revising the aero concept more in line with Ferrari or Red Bull which should help them with the 2024 car.
Mercedes’ near future
As Hamilton suggests, the team may find themselves getting closer to the front towards the end of the season but the real proof of the pudding will be next season.
The difficulty for Mercedes tech team is to create bolt on Red Bull/Ferrari type aero solutions to a concept that is fundamentally different.
Will it work this season? Nobody knows.
Whether Mercedes can deliver a car two years later than its rivals to challenge for honours is questionable and the next big regulation change comes for the 2026 season, some three annual championships away from now.
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Let’s keep this energy up, Team. 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/D2s9tSw4zs
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) March 21, 2023
Wow! So, what’s new? Wolff is a master of obfuscation and chicanery while Hamilton takes huge pride in his fake championships. Faking has entered the DNA of Mercedes thanks to these two evil forces. Even after they go, it will take years for MB to cleanse itself of the ‘fake’ stigma that has come to be associated with them.
It’s pathetic. Nothing against these pioneers of the automobile. I like MB as a car.
Right you are. And as I argued here before, the Mercedes brand should really consider getting rid of Ham and Toto. Their toxicity is bad publicity.