Mercedes continues on its way. The W14 did not draw on the solutions seen last year on Red Bull and Ferrari, trusting what Toto Wolff calls the audacity of the Brackley technicians.
The Mercedes team principal is convinced that the team will win again, but out of prudence he doesn’t go too far with the timing, taking some time if the first steps don’t immediately confirm themselves from the front row.
Mercedes W14, technical detail of the bellies
Photo by: Mercedes AMG
The talks for Hamilton’s renewal have begun, there’s no rush, and from Wolff’s words the matter appears to be a formality to be shelved as soon as the opportunity arises. Toto also confirmed that the much-discussed 2022 W13 will take place in the atrium of the Brackley headquarters, for more than one reason…
We have seen the car in ‘naked’ carbon. How much have you saved in terms of weight? Have you reached your limit?
“Yes, we are at the weight limit, let’s say in line with the goals we set ourselves. There’s not a ton of gain by giving up the paint, but it’s something that confirms the goals we have. And then it is a choice that also fits with the historical context of the birth of the Silver Arrows, just as it is in line with our position (taken two years ago) to paint the car black, and that message is still very valid. So it all made sense.”
Referring to the competitiveness of the single-seater, you used the expression “in the end” in the press release. Where do you think you are right now? Do you expect a more difficult start to the season and an improvement along the way?
“I thought about that expression for fifteen minutes, whether or not it was correct to use it, and above all whether or not it conveyed the idea. I think we will be competitive, but I don’t know yet how competitive our opponents will be. Humility is one of the most important aspects, and especially after last year”.
We have seen several teams choose the technical path taken by Red Bull last year. Is having gone ahead with your path the confirmation of how convinced you are of your ideas or is there also a pinch of courage?
“I’ve always believed that in this sport you have to be a little daring, and I can say that I’m still proud of the solutions that were put into the car last year. The design was not the reason why in 2022 we did not meet our goals, so we confirmed the basic concepts but… you could see some developments that could come with the upgrade program”.
Last year, the single-seater seen at the presentation turned out to be very different from the one at the start of the first race. How have you planned developments this season?
“Last year we learned a hard lesson because we planned to bring an update package worth a second and a half to the track in the second test. So after the first practice in Barcelona we said to ourselves… ‘let’s not draw conclusions, this is not the car we will race with’. But then when we released the final version little changed, it just didn’t work as we expected. So this year we have changed our approach, what you see is a large part of what we will have in Bahrain, we understood that it is of fundamental importance to understand how the car behaves rather than keeping some parts hidden because theoretically they guarantee a tenth or two”.
When did you decide to keep the same single-seater concept?
“During 2022 we analyzed everything, really evaluating many solutions. Obviously the gaze immediately goes to the sides which are confirmed to be very different compared to the other single-seaters, but we are convinced that this part is not so significant for performance. We have remained bold and continue to follow what the feedback tells us.”
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
Photo by: Mercedes AMG
How are the negotiations with Lewis going?
“We have signed many contracts in the past, I would say that renewal after renewal they have changed less and less, so once you have defined some key points, the rest is very fast. We had an initial chat but I don’t want to expose myself by giving timings, and above all I don’t think that at this stage it is a priority aspect either for us or for Lewis. We will find the right moment”.
Does the ‘age’ parameter have a weight for you in the negotiations?
“Considering Lewis is 38 today, I don’t think age will play a role in his next contract. Today the top athletes we see have crossed all the lines, I’m thinking of Tom Brady who at 45 is out on the pitch throwing balls and being tackled so age doesn’t matter. In terms of the contractual situation, I think we’ve always found good solutions that reflect Lewis’ value and on the other hand, Mercedes is the team he wants to be in.”
Will you have to prove that you are a world champion to convince Lewis to extend his contract?
“Lewis seemed to me to be in really good shape, very positive, motivated, full of energy, maybe the best Lewis I’ve seen in the last ten years before the start of the season. We won a lot together, then there was a difficult year, but I don’t think there are any doubts in Lewis’s mind that the team can achieve its goals.”
What do you think of Ben Sulayem’s announcement?
“Mohammed has created an unprecedented and larger organization than the previous one, with a new managing director. I think Formula 1 has always been close to his heart, then I think it’s necessary to wait a bit to get an idea”.
Photo by: Mercedes AMG
Max has stated that the two Mercedes will be his first opponents. Do you think there could be the conditions for a new head-to-head with Lewis?
“We have read very positive comments from the other teams, they are convinced that we will return to the match, but we have to confirm it. I’d like to fight for the win, and maybe in a confrontation with more than three teams, it would be good for Formula 1, and in the end, that’s why we’re here.”
Can you confirm that the 2022 car will be placed in the foyer of the Brackley headquarters?
“Yes, he’ll go to the lobby but… I’ve changed my approach a bit. Initially I wanted to put it in the foyer as a reminder that you shouldn’t sit on your laurels, but then I also thought that it is a car that is a symbol of audacity and courage, in 2022 we took a design direction by making radical choices, we dared and we failed . This aspect says a lot about the mentality of the team and I don’t want to trigger the tendency to become conservative. We have to be bold, and it’s okay to take some risks, possibly calculated ones.”
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