The German automaker is on the back of a tough 2022 campaign as it struggles to lead the new rules era like rivals Red Bull and Ferrari.
Its new W13 struggled badly with the Porpoises early on, and despite some good progress throughout the year, still finished the campaign with a performance deficit up front.
But while the team says the year has provided valuable lessons in helping it understand how best to deal with the new ground-impact regulations, it doesn’t pretend to fully understand everything that went wrong this year.
Asked if the team had complete control of the car, meaning the W14 would eliminate all weaknesses, Mercedes chief strategist James Fowles said in the team’s regular post-race videos: “I don’t think you can really do now, or even during Winter season, mention we know all about W13.
“There have been some ups and downs, quite a lot, and that’s the part of what I meant with this car that has elements that we think we understand and some that aren’t fully explained as a result of that.
“But if you look at the trend moving forward, the gaps at the front, and especially at the pace of the race, we’ve made a tremendous amount of progress and you do that just by understanding where your problems are, working on them and working as a team.”
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Pictures
It seems that Mercedes is ready to change the concept of its car for the next season.
The W13 is believed to have suffered most because its peak performance can only be produced when running very low to the ground – which then exposes it to the worst porpoises and bounce.
A change of approach could pay off, but Mercedes still knows there is still a huge performance gap in Abu Dhabi last weekend between them and Red Bull.
“The confidence that we have is that we now have our tools, our windtunnel tools, our development tools, our performance tools here at the enterprise that produce performance that outperforms our competitors and allows us to go even further for them,” he said.
“There is still a void although Abu Dhabi has really shown that. That has to be made up throughout the winter and I think we have a very good process and system in place to do that.
“That development that you’ve seen throughout the season will continue throughout the winter and I think we’ll be in a very strong place next year.”
Vowles believes the Mercedes team is ending the year stronger as an organisation, as a result of its need to work together to sort out its mistakes.
“We are a team used to succeeding, used to winning, we used to be at the top and we weren’t,” he said. “And that really changed the organization to the positive side.
“We are much better as a result of this and these are the characters we have built and ourselves as a result of that.
“It’s been tough, there’s no doubt about that. We weren’t in a situation we’re used to being in and you have to make sure that as a result you can adapt going forward – and that’s what we did.
“I think we have proven, compared to the beginning of the season relative to the end, how far we have come.”
He added, “This team had to come together more than ever before. It’s very easy in these circumstances, in these difficult times, for us to part ways, and we haven’t.”
“The drivers came together and I’m confident we have the best driver line-up on the grid. We have two amazing drivers pushing each other but working as a team to make the car even better.
“We have a team both in Brixworth and Brackley, and on the track too, everyone works together with one goal only and that’s not necessarily to win anymore. It’s to make sure we understand the package we have, so we get back to winning ways next year.”