Back in black. Mercedes presented the W14 this Wednesday at Silverstone and took a step back in terms of decoration, the black of 2020 and 2021 returns; but not in terms of philosophy: the concept ‘without pontoons’ that they already wore last year, and that it did not appear more competitive than the proposals of Red Bull and Ferrari, it is kept alive in this new car. Hamilton and Russell will drive an evolution of the W13 and three major currents will remain on the grid when it comes to facing the technical regulations in terms of aerodynamics: that of Milton Keynes, which almost all the others have followed; that of Maranello, to which some resemble to a greater or lesser extent; and that of Mercedes. That no one else has wanted to copy.
Toto Wolff, CEO of the team, supports the continuity of the ‘non-pontoons’: “You have to be firm in the sport, we are proud of the solutions we put in the car last year. These sidepods are not the reason we are not performing well. We keep the narrow sidepods but there are developments that will come with the improvements. The pontoons will change, it won’t be soon but we are looking at solutions. Although it is not the fundamental part of the benefits, we believe that”. “There are significant changes but the DNA remains, We have done everything possible so that the problems of last year do not repeat themselves”, explain Mike Elliot and Hywell Thomas, the engineers behind the chassis and engine. Gone are the days of James Allison or Andy Cowell, successful engineers who have stepped back or left the company in recent years.
The color black is not motivated by Sir Lewis’s anti-racist fight, or not only: without paint it is lighter, and no single-seater is at the minimum weight. “We are at the weight limit that we were looking for, all the savings are a commitment”, says Toto. So the livery has motivations beyond aesthetics. All teams, to a greater or lesser extent, scratch the paint to show the ‘carbon fiber’ colour. Including the Ferrari, increasingly black and less red. The W14 goes to the asphalt during the afternoon of this Wednesday, it will be driven by Hamilton and Russell. In any case, it must be difficult to organize a presentation a day after Ferrari breaks the deck and bursts Fiorano with the first laps of the SF-23. From that perspective, any other digital event without fans is cold and occult.
Win again “at some point”
Mercedes’ expectations with this W14 are high, but with reservations. In the official statement, the premise of “winning again at some point” is put into Wolff’s mouth, and that sounds unambitious for a team that won eight consecutive constructors’ titles, and seven drivers’ titles. The Austrian leader explains: “I want to say that we will be competitive, but we must be humble and realistic. We know we will be competitive, but we don’t know when. We are at the level we wanted to be in terms of benefits, but you don’t know where the others are. Humility is very important.”
“It is the most exciting moment of the year, especially with how difficult it was last season,” illustrates Hamilton, who ends his contract at the end of this season and starts the course, for the first time in his long sports career, after a year without victories. . The seven-time champion wants to be great again. Will this Mercedes be enough in the days of Verstappen and the renaissance of Ferrari?