Mercedes ditch upgrade programme

Lewis Hamilton is facing another battle with the technical team in Brackley. He revealed following the British Grand Prix he wanted a “serious conversation” about the future direction the team is taking.

The British world champion is as yet without a contract renewal for next season but believes imminent decisions need to be made will be vital to his hopes of claiming an eight world championship next year.

 

 

Wolff says decision “soon”

With just ten of this year’s twenty two races gone, teams are in full on ‘development’ mode as they strive to improve their cars in the scramble for points and positions in the constructors’ championship.

Decisions about when to stop developing this seasons car and focus on next year’s car are usually taken towards the end of the European season before the final set of flyaway races.

However, given how far behind Mercedes are from Red Bull Racing it appears they are taking the extra-ordinary step and giving up on their efforts to claim the runners up spot behind their arch rivals.

When asked when the switch to next year’s car may occur, Toto Wolff replied this week, “I think pretty soon.”

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Mercedes in ‘false position’

“We have no choice. P2, P3, fundamentally doesn’t impact me and the team,” he said of the championship. “It’s about coming back and being able to win a world championship, and in that respect, that’s not going to happen this year.

Mercedes are in something of a false position anyway this year and despite their big upgrades are at best the third quickest car on the grid. Lance Stroll poor performances when compared to his team mate have cost Aston Martin a comfortable lead in the championship over Mercedes.

Even with Hamilton claiming two podium finishes in the past three races, on each occasion the team have relied on the fact that Sergio Perez has had a nightmare qualifying session and has started too far back to impact the result for Mercedes.

To this end Mercedes have decided the time is nigh when they turn off the challenge for this season and focus on 2024.

 

 

McLaren type upgrade not possible

“We need to set our eyes on next year, and with all the races to come, to learn, develop and make sure that we can carry that forward into next year,” Wolff told Sky F1.

“But having said that, the regulations are the same so you’re not learning nothing by continuing with this car,” he admitted. “It’s a balance that we need to strike right.”

In reality Mercedes are developing a car which has a fundamentally flawed platform and need to redesign their tub and chassis to reflect more of the Red Bull aerodynamic philosophy.

McLaren delivered a mega upgrade in Silverstone which launched them to the ahead of the chasing pack but this is something Mercedes can not do because their platform is fundamentally flawed.

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Low hopes of winning a race

Of course there will be aero tweaks here and there with different front and rear wing designs brought to various circuits where the downforce levels differ significantly.

But as Wolff reflects on the team’s weekend in Silverstone its clear the platform of the W14 can only go so much further before it hits the wall.

“Overall, the car was not where we’ve seen it at Silverstone the last years, a track where we have been really dominant and strong. The high speed was not good at all compared to our direct competitors, and in qualifying, we were also struggling with traction on the exits, so overall, the car remains a handful,” reflected the Mercedes team boss.

Hopes of winning a race this year appear low in Brackley given Silverstone would have been one of their target events for victory.

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Hamilton wants change of direction

“Maybe there’s another track where we have the best shot because the characteristics of the car have changed,” Toto added.

“I have always believed we can beat Max. We have a good group of people, the best drivers, and we just have to give them a car that is more predictable and not the diva 2.0, and much more complicated than the first one.”

Mercedes launched a B-spec car in Monaco this year, although if Hamilton is to be believed the technical team need to take a blank sheet and return to the drawing board.

Lewis claimed in Silverstone, “I know the direction we should be taking,” but also gave the impression he had to win hearts and minds back at Mercedes HQ.

 

 

 

Mercedes TD getting up to speed

Hamilton’s comments are reminiscent of a rant he gave earlier this season when he blasted the team for not listening to him.

“Last year, I told them the issues that are with the car,” said Lewis. “Like, I’ve driven so many cars in my life, so I know what a car needs, I know what a car doesn’t need.

“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 and we’ve got to work’.

Soon afterwards Mercedes technical director resigned and the team’s previous TD James Allison was re-appointed. However Allison was out of the loop when the new 2022 regulations came into force and is yet to fully be up to speed and capable of forging a new direction for the new chassis design.

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Tech team insist on following data

It’s clear Lewis believes Red Bull have aced the new ground effect car design regulations and wants his team to follow suit. Yet there has been reticence within Mercedes technical team to accept they got it wrong and copy Red Bull’s direction.

Yet it appears Toto Wolff is walking a tightrope with his design guru’s having publicly admitted the team have just “got it wrong.”

“I think we’d really tried hard to make it work, because the data that we have extrapolated showed us that this works,” the Mercedes team boss admitted. “And we were proven wrong, very simply.

“And you can see that the two quickest cars, including the Ferraris – the three quickest cars – that have a similar concept of how they generate performance, and it’s very different to ours.”

 

 

Long hard road for Merc drivers

Yet despite all this, Mercedes technical team insist on being led by the data as Wolff admits they are still looking for their failure in understanding the correlation.

“Why we got it wrong, we’re still analysing because we follow data and we followed what simulations tell us, in that case we were misguided by those data.”

When Mercedes do abandon their car development for 2023, it will be a long hard second half of the season for George Russell and Lewis Hamilton as they watch the likes of the resurgent McLaren claiming podiums and challenging Ferrari and Red Bull during each race weekend.

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