Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Paul Ricard, 2022

Mercedes hope to finally ‘unlock the potential that was always in the car’ in test

2023 F1 season

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Mercedes has given the clearest indication yet of the design direction it is pursuing with its new car for the 2023 Formula 1 season.

The eight-times champions fell to third in the standings last year, prompting speculation they would abandon the radical ‘zeropod’ design they raced last season. However the team has previously hinted it is not about to abandon the philosophy, indicating it believes the problems which compromised its W13 lay elsewhere.

Now team principal Toto Wolff has said the team will go into pre-season testing this year hoping to finally extract the performance from its unique design.

“I think we have understood how we fell back and where the shortcomings are, where we have gaps in understanding or had gaps in understanding and we’re working hard on putting a car on the ground that has addressed all of that,” Wolff told media including RaceFans.

“But we will only see when starting testing whether we have unlocked the potential that we believe has always been in the car.”

Mercedes will launch their W14 on February 15th. The sole, three-day pre-season test will begin in Bahrain eight days later.

He cautioned the team still has to significantly improve its performance to get on terms with dominant 2022 champions Red Bull and runners-up Ferrari.

“We have no doubt, when you’re starting behind by half a second, that it’s going to be difficult to catch up to such great organisations like Red Bull or Ferrari,” said Wolff.

Wolff said he is braced for the possibility that Mercedes will begin the new season as far away from their closest rivals as they were in Abu Dhabi two months ago.

“Having said that, we are super-determined in doing just that, but we need to set our expectations that are realistic level. If we perform in the way that we hope so then we’d like to be part in the racing at the very front. I think that would be a starting point.

“But we don’t take that for granted. It could well be that the gaps are like they were at the end of last season. But I think there’s so much potential still that’s within our car, within the concept, the way we drive the car, et cetera, that maybe our development slope can be steeper in the months to come.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 34 comments on “Mercedes hope to finally ‘unlock the potential that was always in the car’ in test”

    1. The Mercedes was running so unbelievably close to the ground to seal the floor. With the updated regulations I don’t think that’s possible anymore and that it favours the RB (more experience with sealing the floor by aerodynamics / high rake cars. Testing will still be testing, but it will be interesting to see who does well and who doesn’t in those 3(!) days. Also with the almost bulletproof reliability that Mercedes had on the engine side, I wonder if there is any performance left for them to unlock (and if so, why didn’t they use it last year when they weren’t fighting for championships anyway). All in all I don’t think they’ll fight for championships again this year as well.

      1. There were rumours all year that Mercedes weren’t using all the power available to them and were aiming for more reliability last year. I expect they’ll have stripped and assessed every engine they got back and they’ll be able to increase power this year. Obviously this will primarily be through an ability to run their engine harder rather than them adding more horsepower through new parts which should be prohibited under an engine freeze.

        1. yes, but I wonder why they didn’t do that last year since it became apparent pretty early it was a lost year anyway. Why not run the engine harder to better understand the limitations in year you’re not fighting for wins/championships anyway?

          1. I’m under the impression that the chassis with its problems could not handle more power.

    2. I think it’ll be good if the top teams are still coming at this with different concepts. That increases the chances that even if one team dominates on a particular weekend, another could come into play or win on a different circuit under different conditions. That kind of uncertainty and unpredictability always adds interest to a championship.

    3. So they’ve learned nothing.

      Going into these tests with the same goals they left last year’s.

      Still believing in a car and concept that went from 0.7s behind to 0.7s behind during the 2022 season.

      1. Wouldn’t say they haven’t learnt nothing. They sorted the porpoising, they sorted the bottoming out, they were more competitive near the end of season and they indicated they knew where they fundamentally went wrong with the car and addressed it for this season. Let’s be patient and see what the result is. I still think RB miles ahead and will develop as well. Time will tell.

        1. Robert Henning
          17th January 2023, 12:25

          Other teams also sorted porpoising, bottoming out.

          Were they actually competitive near the end of the season?

          They had certain tracks that suited them more which probably would have been the case with or without them understanding their car.

          Let’s not forget that the ultimate pace of the car didn’t change over the year. 7 tenths off in Bahrain, 7 tenths off in Abu Dhabi.

          This Mercedes hopium is the biggest hopium I have seen.

          Clearly either the guys don’t understand the issues well enough and have to persist with it till they get that sorted or they are just arrogant enough that they believe they’ll magically be up front.

          However, given RB’s lack of tunnel time, and the new regulations forced through by Mercedes, they might get closer than they normally should.

          1. You know the season is an overall and not just the first and last race. It’s not because they were 0.7s off at the last race that nothing happened throughout.

            1. Robert Henning
              17th January 2023, 18:01

              Of course I am well aware.

              The point is Bahrain and Abu Dhabi are similar tracks, similar lap times and the ultimate pace differential didn’t change.

              Mercedes seem to put on huge wings to compensate for a lack of efficient floor downforce making their car more draggy than it should be. In fact their design inherently has more drag, as confirmed by Scarbs recently.

              The tracks they did “well” – Hungaroring, Zandvoort, Mexico, and Brazil, all had factors that mitigated the fundamental weakness of the car.

              For a majority of the year, they were behind by 5 to 6 tenths and the gap reappared at Abu Dhabi.

              Begs the question of if they improved over an year at all.

          2. I love how fans think they know better than hundreds of engineers working on this full time with a budget of hundreds of millions. There is so much more going on in the car design than just the size zero sidepods. They are just the most visible and seemingly dramatic deviation from the other teams, but for all we know have little or no impact on the main reasons why Mercedes were not on the pace last year.

            1. Robert Henning
              17th January 2023, 17:57

              Don’t see the relevance of your response.

            2. KC, you just need to remember that it’s Monday and all us “arm-chair” quarter-backs have determined exactly why our team failed or succeeded. It provides us with the knowledge that if we were in the huddle and had some control, of course the outcome would be positive.
              As the man said … “That’s entertainment”. It could also explain why it is getting harder to tap into technically knowledgeable information sources.

            3. with a budget of hundreds of millions.

              so they already broke the budget is that the conclusion?

      2. Eh, all this is just talk. I’d be hugely surprised if they didn’t turn up with a “Red Bull clone” like everyone else.

        1. That’s “cost cap” for you, right there. Cloning is cheap!

          1. Is this where we pretend we didn’t see one or two concepts prevailing over others in every era of F1 ever?

      3. So what should they do in your expert opinion? Copy Red Bulls concept and be 7 tenths behind anyway? If they can get their concept to work they may have a lot more development options in future than the Red Bull concept, a higher ceiling so to speak. If that does somehow happen and they end up a second ahead of everyone and pulling away I’m sure you’ll be first in line screaming for them to be pegged back.

        1. So what should they do

          Set a date by which the people in your org arguing for this design have to prove they’ve got a handle on it. If they cannot do that, remove them and put someone in charge that isn’t wedded to chasing white rabbits.

          And yes, that date would have been in early summer 2022, so you don’t end up with a W14 that’s getting the same ‘unlock its potential’ lines before it even had a filming day. (AFAIK)

          If they can get their concept to work

          We’re coming up on the anniversary of the team first uttering that line. And if these recent remarks are to be believed, the getting-it-to-work part is still apparently fictional at this point.

          I’m sure you’ll be first in line screaming for them to be pegged back

          On what basis?

          1. On the basis you really dislike the Mercedes team.

            1. That’s a misapprehension on your part.

            2. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.

            3. I’m sure you can back up your erroneous sentiments with references to past comments.

          2. Not being funny

            But having managed large and small r and d engineering groups.

            He is not far off the mark. Engineers are truly tribal particularly when there is any ownership of a theory or design. These are bright chaps and lasses. I used to manage well over a hundred of such in specified groups – involved in, amongst other things, developments that can’t be talked as they were militarily in nature – all the way to technical equipment for schools and colleges. Hundreds of products in the range sold all over the world. For 60 years.

            This includes a single cylinder variable compression experimental engines – designing single cylinder variable compression for – well, you can guess which customers.

            I wonder if the figures have welded Mercedes to a pathway, different to others as has been their want (and success) but may need a great deal of resources and time to prove a none Newey point of view?

            The drivers will maximise everything they have access to but… has this become an engineering love fest of which I have seen and managed and broken many of up through necessity.

            They need competitive- not look how we do not copy anyone.

            The drivers will do the rest.

            Personally from an engineering manufacturing perspective. Newey has stolen march on suspension geometry and getting that back despite their resources is not the work of a moment.

    4. Ferrari hope to fix unrelability
      Red Bull want to continue their dominance

      Williams wants to move up from 10th..

    5. Did I just hear the sizzle of granular silica material being poured into natural fiber containers and getting secretly sequestered into small spaces.?
      Testing will reveal or at least hint, at how fast the cars are, how much development has transpired in the last six months, how sophisticated the excuses and just how fast they can be rolled out.
      Can hardly wait.

    6. I respect Mercedes for sticking to their design. As some have pointed out, the zeropod concept is really only going to work if the floor is going to generate enough downforce to compensate for other benefits of a car that has sidepods which can be manipulated to provide some downforce. If that can be achieved, then the physics dictate that on a straight line with less air disturbance creating drag, that car will be a rocketship, whilst the cornering will be done relatively fast with the floor able to provide the necessary downforce. However if the floor isn’t able to generate the required downforce that you are forced to fit big wings to compensate for that, then, the straight-line speed will as well be compromised. Finding a balance between these two whilst still avoiding the car porpoising is the holy grail for this concept to work. Whether that can be done with some clever suspension design, underfloor geometry and minimal use of big wings is another matter which only Mercedes can figure out, cz if they don’t, they’ll be stack with a doomed concept.

      1. @lems – Completely agree, plus since they were so way off last year, in terms of their predictions, they will get closure once they hit the track. I wonder if the car can be adaptable across the majority of the tracks like Rbr’s.

        1. @icarby , I think if they can strike a good balance between drag, downforce and straight-line speed, then that car will be an all-rounder. But I also think if they find an operating window for the car to unlock all it’s potential, it’s going to such a narrow window that they’ll call it a DIVA like the 2019 car. Remember how last year they were struggling with tyre warm-up?

          1. @lems – yep definitely tyre warm-up issues killed them off in most of the qualifying sessions. But ultimately if they can trust their simulations again, should be a better year for them.

      2. My thought were the same the zeropod needs a low riding height to be 100% effective and the increasing 15mm would reduce their downforce. Still they have a drag problem which they must adres as the circuits where Mercedes fast were high altitude OR were high downforce needed.

        Red Bull has less wind-computer-time but i think they are focussing the make the car lighter (new chassis which reduce weight with 7,5kg) cost not so much computer time and all that time will be put in adressing the forced rised riding height.

        1. @macleod that’s quite true on the ride height rule. But I think they may come up with some clever suspension design that’ll compensate for the downforce lost because of the 15mm increase in the ride height. What I am sure of is on the engine side, the colling mechanism which was very novel, will allow the P.U to be run harder than last year so will still be okay even in high altitude or hot conditions. The only limitation will be the chassis

          1. Not sure about a suspension design as it’s forbidden to have a suspension who could change heights during the race.

            What i do know is Mercedes had problems adjusting to the new fuel losing power untill they sorted that out which helped a lot in the last 8-10 rounds.

    7. Well, let’s see. Looking backwards we know that what is being said by this team in advance of a season start, turns out to be not the case or has deliberately left out a few twists and changes. It is all premeditated PR talk. So, paying attention to the past and recent trends the conclusion is we still know nothing.

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