F1 2023 preview: Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 Team
By Mat Coch
Tuesday 31st January, 2023 - 2:31pm
As preparations ramp up for the 2023 season, Speedcafe.com Formula 1 Editor Mat Coch looked at every team and assessed their chances for the coming year.
2022 championship position: 3rd, 515 points
Speedcafe.com’s 2023 championship prediction: Constructors’ World Champions
There is a lot to like about Mercedes as the 2023 F1 season draws nearer despite a comparatively lacklustre 2022 campaign.
The Brackley-based squad grew accustomed to sweeping all before it during the previous turbo-hybrid era, though Red Bull mounted a solid challenge to that in 2021.
Changes to the aerodynamic regulations last year however saw it topple from atop Formula 1’s perch for the first time in eight years.
Worst of all, for a long time the team didn’t know why.
The car porpoised alarmingly and was anything but confidence-inspiring for the drivers.
From a design perspective, the team had adopted a radical approach, unlike what others on the grid had done.
The zero-pod concept, in theory, should have allowed for a more controllable airflow but instead, the unsupported floor created issues.
That meant the car had to be run higher and, as a result, did not generate the same level of downforce as the team had hoped for.
From day one, the Mercedes F1 W13 was compromised and the team was playing catch-up.
That process took some time with team boss Toto Wolff quite rightly asserting that it made no sense to abandon the car until the problems were understood, or else they would easily be replicated.
In the latter third of the year, Mercedes was on top of those issues.
Of course, it was too little too late but its performances steadily improved and George Russell became a race winner – a pipedream earlier in the season.
That spoke to the fact that Mercedes has understood the problem to the extent that, while they couldn’t engineer it out for 2022, they could set the car up around its foibles.
With 2023 firmly in mind, that’s promising as it suggests whatever went wrong last year – and technical boss Mike Elliot has said it stemmed from one decision made early in the design process – can be avoided for the coming car.
Of course, we don’t know exactly when that discovery was made, and exactly what it is to know how fundamental it was to the F1 W13, and what that meant timing-wise for the development of the W14.
But, if the form in the back end of last year is any guide, and the fact regulations are remaining stable (aside from some tweaks to floor edges and the diffuser throat), Mercedes looks in a good spot.
The power unit is strong and the car is reliable. The design team looks to be on top of the regulations. Those are all strong positive marks in the W column.
Add in to that two top-drawer drivers who, publicly at least, never let their heads drop and you have a team ready to return to the very front of Formula 1.
Lewis Hamilton has given every indication that he’s as motivated as ever.
Though he’s now 38 years old (his birthday is January 7) he remains one of the sport’s premier drivers.
There is zero doubt that he is still physically and mentally capable of winning championships, plural.
In 2022 he galvanised and led the team, contributing much to its technical exploration in the early races.
It is part of why George Russell, now a race winner, bettered him at the end of the season, but to Hamilton finishing second or 19th in the world championship matters not a jot – there is only one place that matters.
And Hamilton has to go into 2023 as one of the favourites for that crown, together with Russell.
Mercedes has the technical strength and expertise. It learned some hard truths last year but will be stronger for it.
James Vowles has departed but it’s almost unimaginable that the operation was so dependent on him that it will flounder.
Mercedes is a world-class operation, one of the best F1 has seen in its history, and there are strong signs that it is somewhere close to its very best heading into 2023.
When you consider the uncertainty which surrounds Ferrari and the cost cap penalty hanging over Red Bull, perhaps this is Mercedes’ year once more.
You can stay across F1 throughout the 2023 season with dates, drivers, key personnel and more with Speedcafe.com’s Key Details reference, available here.
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