Mercedes confident it's 'figured out what we needed to do'

Mercedes-AMG F1 W14 E Performance Launch - Steve Etherington
© Mercedes F1

Last season proved a deeply disappointing one for the Mercedes team, whose run of eight back-to-back constructors championships finally came to an abrupt end with a dominant Red Bull wrestling the crown away.

Problems with last year's chassis were largely to blame, with 'porpoising' issues just the start of the headaches faced by the team.

But team principal Toto Wolff is of the view that the torrid time faced by the team in 2022 will actually help them turn things around, with the painful lessons learned helping to make this year's W14 much stronger.

"Last year was difficult but it came with lots of learnings," Wolff said at Mercedes' 2023 launch event at Silverstone on Wednesday.

"W13 certainly had performance which we never were able to unlock and put all its downforce on the ground," he acknowledged.

Mercedes already appeared to be getting stronger as the season went on, and claimed its first and only win of the year with George Rusell's victory in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, and Lewis Hamilton finishing in second place.

"Our car performed very well at the end of the season. However, we still had the famous bouncing at some circuits and the car never gave the drivers good feedback, which limited them in being able to really push.

"I hope 2023 will be proof that we have understood how to unravel the problems and improve the package of the car," he continued.

Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott explained that last year's progress on improving the performance of the W13 had been hampered by resources and budget limitations.

"We never really got on top of the car balance last year. All the normal work we do at the beginning of the season didn't happen because of the problems we were trying to rectify,

"Last year, once we had figured out what we needed to do, it took a huge amount of work to get ourselves moving forward," he said. "Towards the end of the season you could see the performance improving, and the winter has been a reset.

"We have done all the things that we wanted to do with the W13 last year but weren't able to because of resource constraints, or because our focus was elsewhere fixing other issues."

Hywel Thomas, managing director of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains, added: "We have looked at the design changes made on the chassis, along with those on the engine, and done the work as a team.

"The biggest changes on the Power Unit this year are the reliability items to make ourselves more robust if we find the car hitting the ground," he said. "We have found the most performance recently through the way we use the engine and that means software upgrades."

Mercedes stated that this year's priority areas to address included targeting overall weight reduction and giving the drivers a more consistent car balance across the speed range.

Another primary area of focus was to match the aerodynamic characteristics to the demands of the aero regulations. But the team has kept the faith with its unique ‘zero sidepod’ approach, at least for now.

“The narrow sidepod design is not something we believe was fundamentally the reason why we didn’t perform," Wolff insisted. "But you could see some developments from now on which could be coming with upgrades.

"The sidepods will change - not very soon - but we are looking at solutions," he added. “But it is not a core, fundamental part of performance as we judge it.”

"With this generation of cars, the performance is all in the detail," contributed Elliott. "When you look at the W14 you will see the DNA of the W13, but also a lot of evolution and detail improvement."

All this has resulted in a significantly lighter chassis, revised front suspension geometry, cooling system adjustments and a refined aerodynamic concept based on last year's learnings.

"We were overweight last year. This year we have tried to figure out where we can squeeze out every single gram," Wolff said, explaining that this also extended to the livery of the car.

"Our colours going forward will be silver and black," he announced. The team has taken inspiration from the original Silver Arrows, but will strip back paint from the sleek black carbon fibre elements while retaining shiny aluminium components in other areas.

"History repeats itself. You will see that the car has some raw carbon bits, along with some that are painted matte black.

"Of course, when we changed the livery in 2020 the main driving factor was to support the diversity and equality causes which are always close to our heart.

"The colour black became part of our DNA at that point, so we are pleased to return to it."

"We have tried to keep all the goodness of the W13 and address its weaknesses," Wolff summarised.

And he ruled out a major 'surprise' upgrade before the start of the season, as happened last year in the second pre-season test sessions.

“Last year we learned a tough lesson because we knew that we would bring an upgrade package for test number two, that was worth 1.5s,” he said. “But we put it on the track and it wasn’t performing at all as we expected.

“So this year we went the other way around. What you have seen is, for a large part, the car we will test and race."

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