Formula 1: Mercedes still on the lookout for return to glory days

Mercedes still finds itself well off the pace of close rivals, Red Bull and Ferrari, with no word from Hamilton on his future with the team.

Published : Jun 03, 2023 12:37 IST , CHENNAI - 4 MINS READ

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell of Mercedes.
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell of Mercedes. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell of Mercedes. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

At the launch of Mercedes’ F1 campaign in 2022, Lewis Hamilton said, “If you think what you saw at the end of last year was my best, wait until you see this year.” However, more than a season later, Hamilton and Mercedes are yet to get anywhere close to their promised best.  

In the first few races of the 2022 season, Mercedes found itself well off the pace of close rivals, Red Bull and Ferrari and discovered itself in a rather unfamiliar territory – distant from the front row. 

Nevertheless, the Silver Arrows eventually left behind the midfield battles and recovered pieces of their race-winning form.

At the penultimate race of the season, in Brazil, George Russell’s first F1 victory finally ended the 21-race winless run for Mercedes. With 17 hard-fought podiums and a third-place finish in the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes faithful felt that it was a sign that the eight-time champion was back to contesting for the throne again.  

Short-Lived Victory

In pre-season testing this year, the Mercedes pairing of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell seemed to adapt better to the new and improved W14, despite the German manufacturers lagging behind Red Bull and Ferrari. However, along with issues regarding the balance of the car, the three-day session in Bahrain suggested a new challenger was on board – Aston Martin and its latest recruit, Fernando Alonso. 

Steering clear of midfield woes, the Aston Martin looked like it had done everything right to match the lap timings of its current engine supplier, Mercedes. The AMR23 looked solid throughout the weekend and was considered a potential threat, even to a positive-looking Ferrari. 

First Race Of The 2023 Season - Bahrain Grand Prix

During the first qualifying session of the 2023 season in Bahrain, Alonso stunned the paddock and the fans with a third-place finish, ahead of both the Mercedes drivers. The Spaniard’s resilient drive secured him the final podium spot, finishing ahead of Hamilton in fifth and Russell in seventh.

Much to the dismay of Mercedes, crossing the chequered flag behind the green Aston Martin has become a familiar scenario throughout the season. Apart from Hamilton’s second-place finish in Australia, neither British driver has had an answer to Alonso’s hot streak of five podiums in six races. 

Unresolved Issues

Mercedes’ 2023 challenger seemed to have found a solution to the major concern that loomed in its garage in 2022 – ‘porpoising’, a bouncing phenomenon that developed in the 2022 cars due to the new rules. However, the team was far from catching up to the front runners.

With technological upgrades introduced ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix, Hamilton appeared a bit more comfortable with the car throughout the weekend.  

Making the right call to change tyres when the rain hit, and a bit of luck with driver errors up front saw the British duo finish fourth and fifth.

Lewis Hamilton’s Future At Mercedes 

Currently in the final year of his contract with Mercedes, the seven-time champion is yet to confirm if he will stay on board or, possibly, even hang up his racing gloves.

Amid buzz about a move to the Scuderia, both parties have denied any such discussions. A new agreement to extend his stint with the German side might be on the cards, but there is no confirmation yet.  

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team W14 during the F1 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team W14 during the F1 Bahrain Grand Prix. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team W14 during the F1 Bahrain Grand Prix. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Potential replacement

In case Hamilton walks away, Mercedes’ reserve driver, Mick Schumacher, might find himself at the wheel. The German was given his first opportunity to drive the W14 in Spain after he joined the team ahead of the 2023 season. 

Schumacher, a former member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, made his debut in F1 with Haas in 2021. In his two years with the Ferrari-powered side, he could not establish himself and was removed from Haas’ driver line-up. Nico Hulkenberg took his spot. 

A Change In Trajectory

Though it was difficult to assess the car’s performance due to the slow-speed nature of the Monaco circuit, the Silver Arrows will hope to fully unlock their new upgrades at Spain’s circuit, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. 

The Silverstone-based team will hope its car can make significant progress and eventually return to where it believes it should be. 

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