Lewis Hamilton has spoken candidly about the uphill struggle Mercedes faces this year following the debut of the W14 in Bahrain.
Despite suffering from persistent and significant limitations last season, the German squad committed over the winter break to keeping its ‘zero sidepod’ design for the start of 2023.
The mood at Mercedes was pessimistic even before pre-season testing, with a genuine sense of apprehension – alongside speculation – surrounding the usual efforts from Toto Wolff to lower expectations.
However, the W14 proved even worse than many expected in Bahrain – especially when considering the resurgence of Mercedes’ customer team, Aston Martin.
Many of the underlying issues from last season remain, to such an extent that Toto Wolff has outlined that a change in concept will be needed – far from ideal news after the first race of the season.
There were reports about Mercedes banking on a hefty Baku update package before the Bahrain GP, but the team will need even more changes to improve its development trajectory.
Speaking to the BBC, Lewis Hamilton was honest about the situation at Mercedes:
“I’ve had many cars like this, particularly back in the McLaren days. I don’t know how or when we’re going to do it and turn things around – but it has to happen.
“It’s really about – you know, last year I said the issues that were with the car. I’ve driven so many cars in my life. I know what a car needs – I know what a car doesn’t need.
“I think it’s really about accountability. It’s about owning up and saying – we didn’t listen to you. It’s not where it needs to be, and we’ve got to work.
“We’ve got to look into the balance through the corners, look at all the weak points and just hurdle up as a team.
“We’re still multi-world Champions, you know. It’s just we haven’t got it right this time, we didn’t get it right last time – but that doesn’t mean we can’t get it right moving forwards.”
Whilst Mercedes should never be completely written off, the last twelve months have proven that the Brackley-based team is not immune from errors.
In many ways, the W14’s performance can be traced to a fundamentally sub-optimal concept for these new F1 regulations.
Not only will this impact the team in the short term, but Mercedes’ long-term development could also be compromised. After all, many of their assumptions going into the 2023 season will have to be re-evaluated and possibly discarded.
There is still no clarity on what steps Mercedes will take next, although – at this stage – any decision is unlikely to be more than damage limitation.
Whilst Red Bull – and now Aston Martin – have established the necessary baseline to pursue their development, the Silver Arrows will need to change their trajectory.
It is said that no wind favours the sailor who does not know his destination. At least for now, Mercedes will have to wait before they can even leave the port.