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Mercedes development: upgrade plan for the new W14

The new Mercedes keeps its face. For the time being, the engineers only adapted their idiosyncratic concept in detail. Mercedes believes you don't need a copy of Red Bull or a black Ferrari to take revenge.

A win, a pole position, 17 podium places, 515 World Championship points: For many Formula 1 teams, this record would have been a reason to celebrate. Not for Mercedes. For a team that has won eight consecutive World Constructors' Championships, third place is a loss. "None of us want to go through a season like this again," said George Russell. That's what a man says, who was able to celebrate his first GP victory in 2022.

Russell puts it into perspective: "Judging by the problems we had with the car, we got the most out of the package. With a little more racing luck we could have finished second in both world championships."

Team boss Toto Wolff agrees: "It wasn't all bad about last year's car." Technical director Mike Elliott recalls the outstanding reliability. In 22 races only one defect crept in. Hydraulic failure at Lewis Hamilton in the final race in Abu Dhabi.

Courage shown, fell on your nose

In the 2023 season, the signs are pointing to revenge. Mercedes wants to fight for both titles again with Red Bull and Ferrari. After the presentations and shakedowns, forecasts are still just reading coffee grounds, but Russell dares at least one cautious forecast: "I hope that in the worst case we will start the season where we left off in 2022." Wolff spent a quarter of an hour thinking about a formulation that later wouldn't occur to him. "We will be competitive, we just don't know when."

This year Mercedes is going the opposite way from last year. Even before the first race, the works racing team unpacked their joker, which then proved to be a failure over three quarters of the season. This time Mercedes is starting from a base you know and gradually moving towards what is already in the minds of the engineers.

Even with the first upgrade, the W14 will look significantly different than at the start of the season. Wolff hints: "We showed great courage last year and fell flat on our faces. The car had great potential, but we couldn't show it for long stretches of the season because the rear axle jumped too much."

There is good reason to believe that bouncing is history. "We've learned a lot over the last year and hopefully we've drawn the right conclusions from it." In addition, the edges raised by 15 millimeters on the sides should help to largely prevent the floor being sucked in and out towards the road.

With this, the technical office could jump right into further development. Something that was only possible after the sixth race in the previous season.Engine boss Hywel Thomas also hopes so: "The bouncing was a major burden for the drive. The impacts have severely affected the engines."

Sidepods not the holy cow

Mercedes has managed to stay true to its concept of minimal sidepods and still incorporate a few features from the competition. The upper lateral crash structure is still a wing that redirects air downwards. The cooling inlet is still set far back and shaped like a narrow vertical letterbox slot. The sidepods also have no horizontal surfaces, but rather slope down to the ground.

At the level of the cooling outlet gills, something like a Red Bull-style ramp is suggested. This also reduces the free space on the floor of the car. This gives the base plate more stability. A larger bulge can otherwise only be seen far up on the hood.

The W14 is neither a black Red Bull nor a black Ferrari. Mercedes stayed true to itself. Mike Elliott explains why the design team didn't turn everything upside down. "Over the past year we've kept asking ourselves whether we've made a fundamental mistake. Such mistakes are often hidden in the early design phase. But we couldn't find anything that was conceptually bad. That's why the car kept its DNA. We made the necessary adjustments to the fairing."

Wolff also believes that the discussion about the sidepods is overrated: "Last year we kept discussing whether we were right or wrong. There were and are no holy cows. In the end we came to the conclusion that the sidepods weren't are as relevant to the lap time as other things. They weren't the cause of our problems." And yet they will soon change shape. "This is just the first iteration. In the wind tunnel we already have something that looks different." The 51-year-old Austrian leaves open exactly where the journey is going.

Color and its story

The sting of defeat was deep. According to Toto Wolff, it was a good lesson and a test at the same time. The team had to learn to digest various blows and find a way out of the crisis. "Now we not only know how to deal with successes, but also how to manage crises. In this process we have learned a lot about ourselves. It has made us all better."

For Lewis Hamilton it was the first Formula 1 season without a win. The seven-time world champion came back from the winter break all the more motivated. "In the beginning you always have the feeling that the break is too short. And then you can't wait until you're finally in the car." The record winner admitted that while he was waiting he also spied on the competition. "With every presentation, you look at pictures and zoom in on the details.For me, this is the most exciting time of the year."

First of all, my own car received praise. The look is right. "If it's as fast as it looks, then we can be satisfied," Wolff states. Hamilton likes it, of course the colour. He became world champion in 2020 with a black Mercedes and fought a battle with Max Verstappen all the way to the final in 2021.

This time, however, black is not a commitment to more diversity, but pure necessity. The Mercedes W14 can only do this by omitting color Weight limit. On top of that, a new, lighter chassis was needed.

Toto Wolff even sees the choice of color as an analogy to the history of the Silver Arrows. Once upon a time, in the gray pre-war period, the white paint was said to have been scraped off the cars, to save weight. What remained was the bare aluminum skin. This time the silver paintwork was basically scratched and the black carbon fiber structure came to light.


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