A Year to Forget for Mercedes

Mercedes’ F1 team has been, inarguably, embattled in recent F1 seasons. While still one of the most successful F1 Championship teams in the sport’s illustrious history, Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS have endured disappointment after disappointment since their last Championship trophies – and the 2023 season has been no different.

With the end of the 2023 season on November 23rd, Mercedes has some months to reconsider their position and tool up for potential redemption in 2024; what lessons, though, should Mercedes be learning? And just how badly did the 2023 season go for them?

Technical Issues and Car Performance

Mercedes has suffered numerous technical problems lately; these were perhaps most visible in the 2022 season, when their new W13 design exhibited serious problems with airflow and performance. Unfortunately, the W14 they developed for the 2023 season has not been much of an improvement.

While outside the Championship, Mercedes vehicles are renowned for their immaculate engineering and high quality – inspiring many to take out Mercedes gap insurance to cover the whole value of the vehicle against damages – the same cannot be currently said for Mercedes’ on-track performance.

Driver George Russell was diplomatic about the issues this season, acknowledging that the W14 had issues with mid-corner handling, but stating that the W14 was a ‘step in the right direction’ away from the issues of the prior design. Still, balancing and performance issues have nonetheless contributed to a lacklustre season overall.

Team Strategy and Decision-making

Strategically speaking, Mercedes haven’t fared much better this season either. Some key blunders, at least as perceived by Lewis Hamilton, cost the driver precious placements – most notably in the Miami Grand Prix, where poor timing on Mercedes’ part cost Hamilton in a qualifier, leaving him in 13th place for the start of the race proper. It was only towards the end of the season, with a shift in tactics, that Hamilton indicated any sense of approval towards the team’s strategy.


Driver Performance and Team Dynamics

Hamilton and Russell together form a dynamic and impressive team of drivers, and their talent is unignorable; that said, their wrestling with both poor tactical decisions and a difficult iteration of F1 vehicle have led to them falling behind their potential. Russell’s 2022 performance outshone Hamilton’s, creating a unique tension that has hung over the team this season; Russell’s ambitions are clear, but the 2023 season has seen Hamilton reclaim his position as points leader for the team, even if those points weren’t enough to challenge rival Max Verstappen.


Outlook and Lessons Learned

The above considerations point to Mercedes having rested on its laurels too long. A gamble on the engineering front in 2022 has led the team down a difficult track with regards to vehicle design and performance, one which the drivers are finding increasingly frustrating to navigate. Fresh heads and a fresh approach might prevail in 2024.

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