How Can Mercedes Stay at the Top of their Game in F1?

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There have only been two races so far in what will be the longest Formula One season ever, but already Red Bull looks invincible, and the World Championship trophy seems destined to return to Max Verstappen and his team.

Even starting 15th on the grid and suffering from a few technical niggles, the Dutchman was able to easily secure second place behind teammate Sergio Perez, to complete a clean sweep of the first two races by Red Bull.

As for Mercedes, their closest rival for the last few seasons, they’re now chasing podium finishes at best. The latest F1 odds and their early season form would certainly back that up, with Lewis Hamilton 5th in Bahrain and George Russell 4th at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

After a disappointing qualifying session in Saudi Arabia, Hamilton was moved to say “…I don’t feel connected to this car. No matter what I do, no matter what I change, I can’t get confidence in it. I’m at a bit of a loss with it.”

To make matters worse, Mercedes find themselves further down the field after being leapfrogged by a vastly improved Aston Martin, with former World Champion Fernando Alonso at the wheel. A chastening experience for the once-dominant team.

Mercedes Racing History

Mercedes first raced in Grand Prix back in the 1930’s and dominated the sport along with their closest rival Auto Union. However, it wasn’t until 1954 that the manufacturer entered what is now known as Formula One. With the famous Juan Manuel Fangio at the wheel, who was later joined by Stirling Moss, the Silver Arrows dominated the sport once again, clinching the Drivers’ Championship in 154 and 1955.

Mercedes Formula One Record:

Constructors Championship: 8 – 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021

World Drivers Championship: 9 – 1954, 1955, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020

Mercedes Formula One Team (2010–present)

After a long hiatus from the sport, Mercedes returned to Formula One in 2010 when they bought a stake in the Brawn GP team and were rebranded as Mercedes GP Petronas Formula One Team. Four years later they secured their first-ever Constructors Championship and retained it for the next seven years, overseeing an unprecedented period of dominance in the sport that also took Lewis Hamilton to a record seven World Drivers Championships.

The Silver Arrows produced several brilliant cars during their all-conquering period at the top of the sport, including:

2019 Mercedes AMG F1 W10 EQ Power+

  • Number of Wins: 15
  • Win Percentage: 71.43%

2020 Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance

  • Number of Wins: 13
  • Win Percentage: 76.47%

2014 Mercedes F1 W05 Hybrid

  • Number of Wins: 16
  • Win Percentage: 84.21%

2015 Mercedes F1 W06 Hybrid

  • Number of Wins: 16
  • Win Percentage: 84.21%

2016 Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrid

  • Number of Wins: 19
  • Win Percentage: 90.48%

The W07 was the most successful car of the modern Formula One era, winning more than 90% of the races that season as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg fought for the title. Mercedes failed to win only two races in total with one of those due to a crash between their duelling drivers. This season, however, the Red Bull RB19 looks likely to break that impressive record and potentially win every race.

 The road back to the top

Where do Mercedes go from here? Over the course of the Bahrain weekend Team principal Toto Wolff admitted that Mercedes had made a mistake pursuing their current design after an extremely difficult 2022 that saw their car suffer from lack of speed. The team has openly talked about the need to make “radical” changes to the Mercedes W14 in order to close the gap with Red Bull, and technical boss Mike Elliott has admitted that there’s a “very different sidepod” design in the pipeline.

The majority of teams on the grid used the summer to make changes to their cars that emulated the successful design used by champions Red Bull. Aston Martin, in particular, has seen a huge leap in performance having done just that. However, Mercedes decided to stick with their unique narrow sidepod design that they were convinced would provide more speed after impressive wind tunnel results.

 After a fourth-place finish in Saudi Arabia, George Russell was sounding more optimistic about the current car, “We have made some small steps compared to Bahrain. We know we have a long way to go, but we’re in an interesting phase as a team.” He explained, “We are making some changes at the moment to try and close that gap to Red Bull and hopefully it won’t be too long before we make a step forward.”

Even with that improved performance, Mercedes is inevitably headed down a new design path with their car, but any major improvements are unlikely to be ready before May and won’t affect the course of this year’s Championship. That means the Silver Arrows 2023 season is over before it began, with podiums and a potential race win the best they can hope for.

For now, Mercedes race is all about getting a competitive car ready for the first weekend of next season. Without it, keeping hold of Lewis Hamilton may prove impossible, with the seven-time champion desperate to win a record eighth title before he retires.