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Mercedes Wounded Over Season of Turmoil

LUSAIL, QATAR – OCTOBER 7: George Russell of Great Britain and Mercedes AMG during the sprint shootout ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Qatar at Lusail International Circuit on October 7, 2023 in Lusail City, Qatar. (Photo by Kym Illman | Getty Images)

With Red Bull Racing finalizing a spectacle of a 2023 season with their dominance, Mercedes was left battered over their first winless season since 2011. 

Overcoming Scuderia Ferrari by just 3 points and placing second in Constructors’, however, proved that Mercedes is definitely not one to surrender.

The team mentioned how the 2022 W13 was not up to par, although initially they were certain the car’s design would work like a charm and make a flawless run. Mercedes’ combat vehicle for the 2023 season was an improved W13 that retained the earlier ‘zero pods’ bodywork. One of the many reasons the Mercedes drivers dreaded the W13 was the persistent porpoising issue through the high-speed corners, which proved to be a major challenge for the Brackley team during the 2022 season. 

It did not take long until Team Principal Toto Wolff labeled their 2023 battle weapon as ‘miserable.’ “This car doesn’t deserve a win,” Wolff told Formula 1. “We need to push for the last two races and recover. I think that’s the most important thing and see what we can do in Las Vegas – a totally different track – and Abu Dhabi. But the performance today was… I’m just lacking words.”

With the duo of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell signing a new contract, Mercedes is seeking to return to the top after two seasons of dominance from Red Bull Racing.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – NOVEMBER 23: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes talks to the media in the Paddock during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 23, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Peter Fox | Getty Images)

Lewis Hamilton (Third in standings with 234 points)

The start of the Formula 1 2023 season was probably not the best for Lewis Hamilton. Nevertheless, the British driver was able to put together impressive drives for Mercedes – concluding the season with six podiums and third place in the Drivers’ Championship.

Although neither of the Mercedes drivers managed to secure a win, Hamilton managed to land second-place podium finishes in the Australian and Mexican Grands Prix – increasing the tally of his highlights this season. Known for his impressive pace throughout qualifying sessions, Hamilton’s demonstration of his skills was vivid on the track. Hamilton exhibited his competence by making passes and engaging in battles with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, rounding out two impressive races.

Despite this success, there were many instances of near-collisions involving Hamilton. The seven-time world champion slipped past Max Verstappen’s Red Bull during the British Grand Prix qualifying session, nearly colliding into his side. Almost the same catastrophe occurred during the Qatar Grand Prix, where he made contact with fellow teammate Russell in the first corner of the Lusail International Circuit. 

At the end of August, Mercedes was able to lock Hamilton into a two-year contract extension.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – NOVEMBER 23: George Russell, Mercedes F1 F1 W14 during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 23, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Michael Potts/BSR Agency | Getty Images)

George Russell (8th in standings with 175 points)

Russell openly expressed his dissatisfaction with his performance in the 2023 F1 season. Russell claimed that the season had been ‘very strange’ and that he had wasted a number of opportunities. Over the course of 23 races, the British driver finished on the podium twice – the Spanish and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix. With one hundred less points than he had at the end of the previous season, he managed to finish the season with 175 points. 

When asked by Formula 1 about his season, Russell said, “It’s been a very, very strange season. It’s been a season where we’ve had a lot of pace at times, but never achieved the results that I felt were deserved or were possible. So, we definitely need to try and understand why that was. There’s been a huge amount of missed opportunities in many regards. It really hasn’t been a smooth season. But I think when everything’s flowing, when everything’s working right, luck tends to be on your side.”

Out of the four DNFs, Russell claimed that his ‘heartbreaking’ moment over the span of the 2023 season was the Singapore Grand Prix. After attempting to overtake the race leader Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, Lando Norris’ McLaren, and the second Ferrari of Leclerc’s, the British driver was just a few places away from securing a podium. Russell, who was about to finish in second place, was determined to overtake Sainz’s Ferrari at the last moment, when their gap was only a few metres. Russell was spotted ramming into the barriers just as they were going to cross Turn 10 – burning his chance of a podium to ashes. After the race ended, Russell said, “I’m lost for words to be honest. I think we were half a car’s length away from winning the race, had we been able to overtake Lando when I had that one opportunity.”

Looking ahead to 2024

Leading into 2024, The Telegraph announced that Wolff has signed a new three-year contract with Mercedes, keeping him in charge until the end of the 2026 season. Reflecting Wolff’s commitment and faith in the team, he is determined to discover the underlying reasons behind the car’s unreliability before the fast-approaching 2024 season begins. 

Due to the W14 car’s inconsistencies and Wolff’s belief that it ‘does not deserve to win’, Mercedes is said to be changing almost every component of their 2024 car in order to take on Red Bull. Wolff claimed that the concept has shifted for the upcoming W15.“We’re changing the concept, we’re completely moving away from how we laid out the chassis, the weight distribution, the air flow. Literally, there’s almost every component being changed, because only by doing that, I think we have a chance,” Wolff said to Formula 1.

Mercedes’ F1 technical director James Allison also revealed that Mercedes’ 2024 challenger will look significantly different from its predecessors. When asked by Sky Sports about missing the ‘zero-sidepod’ as a concept, Allison said, “We definitely took a path with our car, and I would say that’s from the tip of the nose to the very back of the tail, which was not a competitive one. The most visually notable aspect of that was our sidepods, but by no means the definitive factor.”

“It was not right from the front to back and that’s the thing we have had to learn and have had to deal with – that’s taken us longer than we would have like.” Allison said to Sky Sports.

Mercedes is the fifth team set to unveil their W15 car for the 2024 Formula 1 season on February 14.

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