McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella has agreed with Red Bull Racing’s Christian Horner on the suspicions the Mercede will be making a strong comeback next season. It comes as Mercedes face a challenging end to the current Formula One campaign.
The Brackley-based Silver Arrows have had to settle for podium finishes against the likes of Ferrari, Aston Martin and McLaren, with Red Bull setting an unassailable pace at the front.
Mercedes missed opportunity
Despite having a car capable of winning in Singapore, Mercedes missed their opportunity due to a less than stellar qualifying session against Ferrari.
Throughout the season, the Mercedes W14 has been erratic, with both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell struggling to find consistent performances. At the Suzuka circuit, often regarded as a reliable gauge of a car’s capabilities, Mercedes found themselves trailing both McLaren and Ferrari.
McLaren doesn’t underestimate Mercedes
However, Stella is not one to underestimate Mercedes.
“It’s unclear if we’re progressing faster than other teams, especially compared to Red Bull,” he noted. “But let’s not discount Mercedes; they’ve identified their areas of improvement. I think they’re ready for a strong comeback. At the moment, there’s no concrete evidence to suggest that the team ranking for next year is set. I expect some shifts…”
Stella’s comments echo Horner’s earlier predictions that Mercedes are likely to make a strong comeback with their 2024 car.
Mercedes has developed ‘very different’ 2024 F1 car
Mercedes, currently second in the Constructors’ Championship, had a complicated start to the season with a car featuring the ‘Zeropod’ aero concept inherited from last season’s defunct W13, which proved to be a very poor strategic choice for the German manufacturer’s team.
Now, the Silver Arrows have announced a radically different design approach for their W15, moving away from the failed ‘zeropod’ experiment that put the W14 on a shaky footing from the outset.
Against much expectation, this year saw Mercedes continue on with the W13 aero concept, rather than start over from scratch. A move that saw a return to many of the problems the 2022 car had before being ironed out.
The W14’s performance improved markedly from the Monaco Grand Prix, when Mercedes introduced its first major aero package and finally abandoned the ‘zero pod’ concept, but Red Bull had already taken a commanding lead in the championship and sealed the 2023 Constructors’ title at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Next years’ car ‘completely different’
But after making great strides this year, Mercedes now know where to go with the development of their 2024 single-seater, which will be “different” to the current W14, according to the team’s technical chief.
“We’re changing the car significantly for next year,” confirmed Mercedes engineering boss Andrew Shovlin, as quoted by Speedcafé.
“Can we or can’t we solve all the problems we have in terms of driving? Well, that will depend on the completion of a number of projects”.
“These projects are ongoing and they’re not complete. But we have good guidelines to try and improve all of that.”
“The car will be different [from the W14] because we’ve made a lot of changes to it, but it’s a bit early in the development of the new car to say that we’ve solved the problems.”
“When we launched our best cars in 2015 and 2019, in those years we didn’t know how great the cars were going to be when we were developing them. You just work as hard as you can and try to find as much performance as you can.”
“With a lot of those cars, we largely missed our targets in terms of performance, but what we know is that if you don’t set yourself ambitious targets, you probably never set them high enough.”
Although Red Bull have already wrapped up the Constructors’ Championship this season, Mercedes cannot afford to let their guard down, with Scuderia Ferrari just 20 points behind them and clearly targeting second place in the team standings.
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