I can't imagine what the mood must've been like during the Formula 1 off-season at Brackley, the Mercedes-AMG team headquarters. After dominating the sport for years and getting used to clinching poles and setting records, the squad only managed to score one victory in 2022 and was essentially defeated in every measurable way by Red Bull Racing. Team boss Toto Wolff and racing drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell aim to turn that around this year—that much they made clear Wednesday morning at the reveal of their new challenger, the Mercedes-AMG W14.
“Last year was difficult but it came with lots of learnings,” Wolff said at the reveal. “I hope 2023 will be proof that we have understood how to unravel the problems and improve the package of the car.
"Last year, once we had figured out what we needed to do, it took a huge amount of work to get ourselves moving forward. Towards the end of the season, you could see the performance improving and the winter has been a reset. We have done all the things that we wanted to do with the W13 last year but weren’t able to because of resource constraints or because our focus was elsewhere fixing other issues,” Wolff added.
While everyone will have to wait to see how much better the W14 performs on the track, one change that's evident now is the car's livery. Citing weight savings and even telling a little tale from the past, Wolff praised the black raw carbon look. Instead of painting the car black like in previous years, or retaining last year's traditional Silver Arrows livery, Mercedes went for the naked look. I gotta say, it looks fantastic.
"When you look at where the story of the Silver Arrows came from, it's that the Mercedes was put on track – the race car it was white, overweight, a little bit of our story last year – and they scratched off the paint, and it ended up with bare aluminum, and the car made the weight," Wolff explained.
"So we came back, we really tried to get the weight off the car in every single bit and therefore on the paint side we committed in gaining the grams by leaving the car matte carbon, and history repeats itself. Just in this case it's a modern material, carbon, and not aluminum, and it's black."
Hamilton and Russell both seemed to agree about the new look of the car, with the seven-time world champion claiming, "It says, ‘we mean business’.”
As it's typical at these events, the team did not share much in the way of technical details, and it surely didn't reveal its complete aero package for rivals to see and speculate on. However, special contributor to F1.com and technical expert Mark Hughes shared some interesting bits about the reveal car.
In his technical analysis, Hughes goes on to say that the W14 actually retains many of the W13's aero features, specifically radiator inlets, floor, and side impact bar. However, it's the sidepods that have been redesigned to perform better; now smoother, flatter, and featuring a more elongated shape that separates them completely from the engine cover.
Hughes also highlights that Mercedes is sticking to its guns with its overall design, and not following aero trends made popular by Red Bull and Ferrari that have been mirrored by other teams. A gamble, certainly, considering both of those teams outperformed Mercedes last year.
Hamilton, one of the two men in charge of piloting the car and actually applying every ounce of performance onto the tarmac doesn't seem to be concerned about this. At least not yet.
“I have been a part of this team for over a decade and the efforts of everyone never cease to amaze me,” Hamilton said at the reveal. “I find it inspiring how diligently and passionately each person approaches their work. I’m excited to go racing again. I feel calm, energized, and have my focus sharpened. I’m ready to do what’s necessary to win.”
F1 teams are heading to Sakhir next week for several days of pre-season testing, followed by the first race of the year on March 3-5, the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix.
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