Mercedes has experienced a disappointing start to the 2021 Formula 1 season. Following a 0.680 seconds gap to pole position in the 2022 season, Mercedes is now behind 0.632 seconds. Rather than using the result as motivation for the development of their car, the team has thrown in the towel. Mercedes’ team boss, Toto Wolff, said, “I don’t think this package is going to be competitive eventually…We gave it our best shot all over the winter, and now we just need to all regroup and sit down with the engineers.”
F1 teams usually take a few races to gauge how their cars match up against other teams. Thus, it is unusual that Wolff declared it game over after a single qualifying session. At the heart of the matter, the Mercedes team recognizes that it is in a completely different situation from last year’s mismatch between the W13’s potential and its performance on the ground. The W14 performs as anticipated. However, it is not generating the lap time needed to compete against Red Bull, Ferrari, and Aston Martin, who are bringing upgrades to their cars.
Mercedes’ struggles have been further exposed by Aston Martin, its customer team, which has surpassed it in the pecking order. Aston Martin’s gain elucidates where the W14 package is lacking. “The point is we’re losing it in the high speed. It’s Turns 5/6/7. This is pretty much the only place where we’re losing large chunks of time. We are okay in the other corners, we are okay on the straight,” Wolff said.
Regardless of the results of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Wolff insists that Mercedes needs to switch gears with its car. There is a need to go down untreaded paths to achieve the required performance step to regain the lead. Mercedes will most likely have to abandon the current car architecture in favor of another concept, which will cause a considerable dilemma for the team. The team must choose whether to work on both concepts simultaneously or focus on overhauling its strategy. The latter might mean abandoning the work that is currently underway for the Imola upgrade.