The 2023 season has not gone according to plan for Mercedes. After a difficult 2022 in Brackley, they expected a decisive leap forward in quality, returning to fight with Red Bull (and Ferrari) for the world title.
However, the Milton Keynes team has taken off, with those behind unable to challenge the supremacy of Max Verstappen. Ferrari and Mercedes are fighting for second place in the Constructors’ World Championship; McLaren has made a notable leap forward, which James Allison admits the Silver Arrows have been “unable to do” this year.
The W14 found itself outperformed by two customers – first Aston Martin and now by McLaren, a very uncomfortable situation for a supplier.
In Austin, a modified floor for arrived to the W14 – based on next year’s development direction
“We will have a modified surface, but don’t expect important things. It will give us a bit of lap time, but above all, it will help us understand if we are on the right path,” commented the Technical Director of the Brackley-based team, speaking to formu1a.uno.
We anticipated that Mercedes’ latest evolutionary package would arrive in Austin, and Allison confirmed it – while trying to manage expectations.
The W14 is certainly an imperfect car, and its behaviour changes a lot from track to track, as we’ve seen with the SF-23 and the AMR-23. Meanwhile, the McLaren MCL60 is now confirming its potential even on different circuits.
“In Suzuka, there were some things we liked about our car and others not so much. In Singapore, there was everything we liked and nothing we didn’t like. Qatar is a bit of a middle ground,” examined the Mercedes Technical Director.
He went some way to explain the changes in performance, with the W14 seemingly at a decent level of performance in Qatar. One of the problems that occasionally becomes a limitation is bouncing, which the Mercedes W14 still suffers from:
“We would like to get rid of it completely. We are all still dealing with a bit of bouncing, and this can also vary based on the wind or whether there is a wake or not.” However, this is not the only limitation of the W14.
The bouncing is an intrinsic problem of these cars, although Red Bull has proven this can be managed:
“These cars are different from the previous ones, but in the end, the setup work is the same. The surface is more important, but then we always talk about ground clearance, stiffness, air vents and blah blah blah.”
Intensified driver involvement for the 2024 season – aiming for a better baseline
The team’s drivers and technicians have not hidden the W14’s and complained about them publicly, but also privately. Within the team, there have been several conversations on this issue:
“The race weekend is the time in which we spend more time with the drivers, but there is too much pressure to do well on the track, and therefore.
“Having more in-depth meetings with the drivers at the factory helps us to understand better their requests, which however are in line with what we are working on,” explained Allison.
Mercedes’ technical leader explained the harmony between the requests of drivers and the technical development objectives they set themselves in Brackley.
“The 2024 car will be important because, given the regulatory changes of 2026, the 2025 cars will be based on those of next year.
“This season has given us clear ideas on what we need to focus our work on for next year,” explains the former Ferrari technician.
Mercedes’ objective is to present itself with a different, better car because according to the Technical Director:
“When a car is born well, it is then simple to unlock its potential”. This year’s Mercedes package carries several technical limitations from last season. Issues with the W14 include a frame that is too advanced and PU packaging designed and optimised for the ‘zero sidepods’ philosophy.
Lewis Hamilton has been complaining since last year about the car’s seat position, which, as analysed, leads to a very reactive front.
However, this means the rear gives drivers less confidence – and prevents the 7-time World Champion from performing at the highest level.
Russell has also made criticisms about the car’s handling, although perhaps not to the same degree as his teammate:
“George loves a softer setup, while for performance reasons, we went for stiffer setups. These adjustments vary from race to race because we can’t go to Suzuka with the Singapore setup, but George is certainly referring to a softer basic setting.”
Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang