Despite a sensational Pole Position that dominated F1 news headlines in Hungary, Mercedes was sent back to reality by the W14’s performance on Sunday.
The Silver Arrows lacked the pace to compete with Max Verstappen, whose advantage on race day remains unaffected by the efforts of rival teams.
Perhaps it was unrealistic to expect Mercedes to challenge for wins in 2023, given their poor start in Bahrain and the significant change in their direction of development.
However, Aston Martin proved over winter (as have McLaren in recent months), that substantial gains can be made within a relatively short time frame.
This is not to say that Mercedes are guaranteed to make the same step, but the idea that development is impossible with the budget cap – as some have hypothesised – has quickly proven false.
With six different teams securing podiums in 2023, there is pressure throughout the grid to overtake their immediate rivals.
Speaking after the Hungarian GP, 7-time Champion Lewis Hamilton made no secret of his preferred development path for Mercedes:
“We generally have a bigger wing than some of the others,” crash.net quotes him as saying.
“Like the Red Bulls for example, but they seem to have more downforce from their floor.
“We have a lot of work to do, I’m like a broken record.
“I’ve just gotta keep telling the guys: ‘we need to go in that direction’.
“I would like to see that either with this year’s car or next year.”
It is clear that most teams are diverging to a similar overall concept, generally following the ideas set out by Adrian Newey’s and the technical team at Red Bull.
Mercedes even admitted that Lewis Hamilton was opposed to the ‘zeropods’ design the team chose to follow over winter.
However, it is difficult to overtake a team such as Red Bull by playing catch-up and beating them at their own game.
Aston Martin and even McLaren have received sly remarks from Red Bull about their recent changes.
With that said, it seems a matter of when – not if – images of a more conventional Mercedes sidepod will capture the attention F1 news circles ahead of 2024.
Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang