Why is Mercedes Struggling in F1? The rules changed to a ground effect era. The mercedes put everything they had into their 2021 car to try and secure an 8th world championship for Lewis Hamilton and as such were the last major team to switch development focus to the new era only for it to be taken away by a dubious safety car at the end of the final race in the season. They started 2022 with a car concept that just didn’t work. With the budget caps in place they couldn’t simply throw money at the problem to get themselves out of trouble by engineering a whole new chassis.
The new rules are much more aero focused whereas the previous era had a lot more engine involvement. The mercedes could no longer hide behind its superior engine and struggled more than most with porpoising. As a result couldn’t run their car as low and sacrificed more performance.
It appears they’re now on a good path, although the red bull has the jump on the car concept as it’s 20 months more mature.
Why is Mercedes Struggling in F1?
Mercedes is having trouble in Formula One for several reasons, such as:
- The new rules: With an emphasis on ground effect aerodynamics, the 2022 Formula One season witnessed a substantial modification to the rules. Mercedes found it difficult to adjust to the new rules, and as a result, their vehicle lacked the competitiveness of Red Bull and Ferrari.
- Porpoising: The Mercedes W13 vehicle experienced porpoising, a condition in which the vehicle bounces up and down quickly. This hindered the drivers’ ability to manage the vehicle and decreased their performance.
- Weight: The W13’s performance was further hindered by its excess weight.
- Development: Mercedes has had difficulty keeping up with Red Bull and Ferrari’s speed of car development. They have therefore been unable to get closer to the elite teams.
The excellent staff at Mercedes is putting a lot of effort on fixing the problems that have dogged them in 2022. They aspire to be more competitive in 2023, as they have already made considerable progress.
Apart from the previously mentioned factors, Mercedes’s struggles in Formula One are also a result of Red Bull and Ferrari’s growing competitiveness. Both teams have advanced significantly in recent years, and they now possess the talent and means to contend with Mercedes for the title.
Mercedes has been the most successful F1 team for the last ten years, but their competitors are putting up a fight. Seeing how they react in 2023 and beyond will be interesting.
How did they get here and what is next for Lewis Hamilton and his team?
After the opening round of the 2023 Formula 1 season suggested Mercedes have once more failed to build a title-contending car, we take a look at how the sport’s once-dominant outfit reached this point, and where they go next.
The positive noises coming from the Mercedes camp throughout the off-season quickly gave way to pessimism as Lewis Hamilton finished fifth and team-mate George Russell seventh in Bahrain.
Hamilton finished 50 seconds behind his great rival Max Verstappen, who eased to victory ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez as Red Bull dominated.
Mercedes were not alone in being unable to compete with the reigning constructors’ champions, but the fact they finished behind the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari left the team in despondent mood.
Hamilton, aware that his hopes of this year claiming a record eighth drivers’ title are already looking extremely faint, appeared to criticise his team for failing to listen to his views on car design, while team principal Toto Wolff described the Bahrain GP as “one of the worst days in racing”.
With expectations well and truly tempered as Mercedes prepare for this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the second of a record 23-round schedule that is all live on Sky Sports F1, we take a closer look at their stunning regression.
The first signs of trouble
Mercedes completely dominated F1 after the introduction of the turbo-hybrid engines in 2014, reeling off eight successive constructors’ titles, the first seven of which were accompanied by drivers’ crowns – six for Hamilton and one for Nico Rosberg.
While Red Bull had proved themselves a match for Mercedes as Verstappen claimed his maiden title in 2021, a decision had already been taken to introduce radical new design regulations for 2022, which would theoretically provide the possibility of a reset of the established pecking order.
Given Mercedes’ sustained brilliance, when the team unveiled an alternative ‘zero-sidepod’ concept at pre-season testing, most assumed they had once more outfoxed their rivals, who had more traditional designs, and would begin another period of dominance.
It was therefore a major surprise when it became clear they had been caught out by the new regulations and were suffering – more than any other team – with porpoising, a bouncing phenomenon that was an unexpected consequence of the way the 2022 cars had been designed under the new rules.
While just about every team suffered to some level, Mercedes’ issues were the most severe, and heavily impacted the performance of their W13, along with the comfort of their drivers.
They were well off the pace as Red Bull and Ferrari battled for wins throughout the first half of the season and were clearly out of championship contention long before the campaign reached its halfway point.
Mercedes did admirably improve their car, regularly outperforming Ferrari and coming close to victory on multiple occasions, before Russell finally delivered an uplifting triumph at the penultimate race of the season in Brazil.
The win appeared to indicate that Mercedes had got on top of their issues and gave the team and their supporters optimism that 2023 would bring a return to title contention.
How quickly can they get back to the front?
Frustratingly for Mercedes, their hopes of challenging for titles this season already appear to be extremely low, and the question for many is whether they can rebuild for the 2024 campaign.
That is not to say they will completely give up on their W14, they can make radical changes to it that could help them on the path back to success.
Sky Sports F1’s Karun Chandhok recently compared the situation they are facing to a building project, significantly pointing out that plans for Mercedes’ 2024 car will already be at an advanced stage, such is the relentless pressure F1 engineers face.
“It’s like building a block of apartments,” Chandhok said. “Think of a cycle of four years to build a four-tier apartment block.
“Mercedes have got to think about, ‘listen, do we throw away and knock down the first two years that we’ve built and build three tiers in the same time that everyone else is going to build just the last tier for next year?’
“And that decision will have to be made now because the architecture and the layout and the concept of the car will get signed off by April for all the teams. So in the next couple of races, they have to make the decision on whether to abandon the concept and go with a whole new concept for next year.”
The noises coming from Mercedes post-Bahrain suggest that significant change is coming. In his GP recap, trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin hinted the team may finally conform with – or at least move towards – the more traditional sidepod design that Red Bull have been so successful with.
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