Mercedes AMG F1 recently completed the most dominant era ever seen in Formula One winning eight consecutive constructor championships. Seven consecutive driver titles is also a record as is the fact the team since 2014 has completed three of the four ever greatest percentage wins per season ever seen in our sport.
Yet how the mighty have fallen. The Mercedes 2020 W11 car was one of their best ever but the regulation changes for 2021 shifted the balance between them an arch rivals Red Bull.
Mercedes lose their dominance
The relatively small car design rule changes favoured the higher rake concept of the Red Bull cars and less so the flatter run lines of the Mercedes philosophy.
“When you have a car which is dominant, like we’d had previously, the balance you’ve got doesn’t really matter,” reflected technical director Mike Elliott on the 2020/2021 cars
“I don’t think the main issue at the beginning of the season was balance, rather that we’d just lost a lot of aero performance overall.
“Whether that hit us harder than others, we can’t judge. But by the time we’d done our work over the winter and turned up at the track, the advantage we’d had, had disappeared.”
New regulations favoured Red Bull ‘high rake’
Despite a disappointing pre-season testing Mercedes won three of the first four races in 2021, though Red Bull fought back ton win five back to back from Monaco to France.
Mercedes big recovery came with the Silverstone upgrades which set the tome for the rest of the season. The team’s head of trackside engineering Andrew Shovlin described this as “quite extensive in terms of front and rear cake tins, all the area around the bargeboards, the floor”.
This allowed Mercedes to get back in the game and even have the edge over Red Bull during the second half of the season.
Of course the end result was one F1 championship to Mercedes in the form of the constructors’ and one title to Red Bull and Verstappen in the drivers’ championship.
Mercedes 2023 F1 results flattered
However since then, Mercedes by their own standards have not been at the races. Their zero pod car philosophy did improve over 2022 finally winning their singular race in Brazil just before the end of the year.
The results of the recent 2023 Spanish GP saw the once all conquering F1 outfit move into second place in the constructors’ championship ahead of Aston Martin, though even this must be taken with a pinch of salt.
Had Aston Martin’s number two points scorer this season scored the same percentage of points as George Russell when compared to Mercedes leading driver Lewis Hamilton, then Aston would be at least a race win ahead of the Silver Arrows team.
Then again the current Mercedes performance is based upon their flawed and now rejected car design philosophy as the team set themselves on a new path with a B-Sped car from the race in Monaco.
New Mercedes Tech Director appointed
The team have also ditched their technical director Mike Elliot who has been responsible for the 2022 and 2023 cars and replaced him with their previous technical director James Allison. He was in charge when there last of the title winning Mercedes’ cars were designed for 2020/21.
In the meantime we have seen Aston Martin make huge leaps forward and whilst some of this may be down to their aerodynamic testing time advantage, much of it is due to the strengthening of their technical team.
Dan Fallows who was head of Red Bull’s head of aerodynamics and Adrian Newey’s right hand man was poached in acrimonious fashion by Aston Martin and has been leading their technical operation since the start of last season.
Under his guidance Aston Martin introduced what was mockingly described as the ‘Green Bull” in Bahrain last season with Alonso charging to a podium.
Aston and McLaren poach key red Bull senior staff
Fallows remuneration was reportedly quadrupled by Aston Martin along with more importantly a shareholding in the team.
The news from Barcelona last time out was that another top Red Bull staffer was on his way to McLaren this time though this time without the previous acrimony over Fallows.
Rob Marshall will be part of a three department head matrix management system reporting into team principal Andrea Stella.
One of the other department heads is Ferrari’s chef engineer David Sanchez who will also join in January 2024. The other Peter Prodromou on aerodynamics is another ex-Red Bull long term key employee.
Red Bull poach Mercedes powertrain experts
For the launch of their Red Bull Powertrains division, the Milton Keynes team decided to recruit key staff form Mercedes who produced the best of the B6 hybrid power units.
Long-time Mercedes engine man Ben Hodgkinson became the unit’s new technical director together with five further key hires from the class-leading Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains was announced by Red. Bull in 2021.
Over the years Mercedes have instead relied on internal recruitment and reorganisation to fill their senior positions, something Nico Rosberg now questions.
Rosberg questions Mercedes recruitment complacency
“I’ve heard that Dan Fallows has also been quadrupled in salary plus an equity stake in the team,” Rosberg said talking to Sky F1.
“The teams are going for it to try and get the talent from Red Bull which is the normal way in F1. That’s what always happens.
“Mercedes – strange that they haven’t been a little bit more active there.
“The knowledge that you also get around a set of regulations when you take someone from the best team is just so valuable. Perhaps that’s a little surprising [Mercedes have not poached from Red Bull].”
Red Bull photo’s to be examined
Having won his world drivers’ title with Mercedes Rosberg appears to then back pedal somewhat.
“Then again, of course, they have incredible talent at Mercedes and now the pictures from Monaco help a lot because thanks to Sergio [Perez]’s crash,” Rosberg added swiftly.
“There are beautiful pictures of the underbody of the car which they can now take from those pictures and create a whole CAD model and do a whole accurate design in the computer of what that car is actually doing.
“That makes it very easy to start to really understand and learn about that Red Bull car.”
Cost Cap limits Mercedes’ ambitions
Yet as Rosberg noted earlier, there are insights senior members of a top team will have that no amount of pouring over photographs will deliver.
It is most likely because Mercedes invested more heavily than any other team for the 2014 new engine regulations that the team once described as having 3,000 employees by Hamilton has been on a slimming programme since the advent of the cost cap.
The question will be whether the Silver Arrows can return to the top of the pile without their big historical financial advantage.
— NOW Sport (@NOWSport) June 6, 2023