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We’ve reached the penultimate car launch for the 2023 Formula 1 season, and it’s a doozy: Mercedes.
The team that was practically untouchable from 2014 until 2021, but 2022 marked its worst showing in the Lewis Hamilton-era.
It. Was. Bad.
At least to start, and then it got pretty damn good. That’s what made the Mercedes launch so interesting. Were they going to scarp the W13, a car Lewis Hamilton said was one of the worst of his career, or go a different direction?
The team was adamant all season that their minimalist sidepods weren’t the cause of their problems last season — primarily with porpoising — and they must stand by that because they’ve continued down that road. The W14 is definitely a continuation of the concept set forth by the W13.
The nose looks a bit flatter to me, but the biggest change is the color. Mercedes is going back to black after one season in their traditional silver color. Interestingly, there’s another reason for the dark livery. Like a lot of teams, Mercedes has struggled with weight limits. Several teams went with the old-school method of stripping weight.
Coincidentally, Mercedes did this way back in what the kids call “the day,” and that’s why they started running silver cars. Now, with cars made mostly out of black carbon fiber, the team has stripped the paying away again. It’s tough to see in pictures but parts of the car are exposed carbon fiber while the rest is painted a matte black.
Is Mercedes Back?
Well, they’re certainly back in black.
Of course, we’ll need to see this puppy in a Gand Prix before we know for sure, but Mercedes was definitely on the right track last season.
What’s funny is the team’s early woes were mostly on Hamilton’s side of the garage, while teammate George Russell was routinely finishing P4 through P6. That’s a letdown for Mercedes, but it was the clue that there was potential in the W13, and once they found it George won a race and Lewis snagged a few podiums.
It didn’t help that the once-all-conquering Mercedes power unit wasn’t bringing it the way the Red Bull Powertrain and Ferrari power units were either.
The 2022 regulations were not kind to Mercedes (some would argue that was by design). That team is too talented, too well-staffed to not make some gains in the offseason.
The question will be can they outgain the completion?
I’d love to see a three-way, season-long battle for the championship between Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull. I think it could certainly happen, but considering how far behind Red Bull and Ferrari they were at times last season — especially in qualifying — I don’t see them coming out on top.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle