‘Aston Martin comparison will confuse Mercedes after already ditching W14 concept’

Oliver Harden
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton on track at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Jeddah, March 2023.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton on track at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Jeddah, March 2023.

Former Williams and Ferrari team manager Peter Windsor believes Mercedes will be confused after matching up well against the Aston Martin in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix having already decided to change their Formula 1 car concept.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff ordered sweeping changes to the car’s philosophy after a poor performance in the season opener in Bahrain, where George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were outqualified and outraced by Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin.

A fortnight later, Russell was in the hunt for a podium spot in Jeddah and was initially promoted to third place after Alonso received a post-race time penalty. The decision was later reversed, with Russell ultimately classified as finishing five seconds behind Alonso in the published results.

Speaking via his YouTube channel, Windsor has identified a portion of the race where Alonso was aiming to extend his advantage over Russell to guard against the threat of a penalty.

And he believes the fact that Russell was able to stay relatively close to the Aston Martin will leave Mercedes scratching their heads having already committed to evolving away from their current concept at the first race of 2023.

He explained: “If you look at [Alonso’s] lap times towards the end, it was quite interesting because George Russell finished fourth in the Mercedes.

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“Fernando, when he’s trying to get a five-second gap over George, is doing 33.1, 33.0, 32.9, 32.8, but George is doing 32.9, 32.9, 32.9, 32.9.

“So in that situation in the race, with George on the absolute limit and Fernando flat out as well, [Aston Martin] weren’t actually that much quicker than Mercedes.

“They were a shade quicker probably, but not a lot.

“And that will give Mercedes a lot of – not confidence, we can’t even use the C-word with Mercedes at the moment – but probably ‘C’ for ‘confusion’ actually.

“Because having had Toto and everybody else ad nauseum saying, ‘they’ve got to change the philosophy of the car, they’ve got to do a Gerard Ducarouge-type 60-day new car’, now there’s George actually going just about as quick as Fernando Alonso in race conditions over quite a long period of time.

“So that’ll be slightly odd.

“And in that situation, in top speed they’re both doing about 303kph outside the DRS [zones], so Aston Martin a bit better in the race than they had looked and Mercedes not absolutely brilliant in terms of top speed in the race.

“They presumably will be thinking about that as well.”

Windsor admitted to being alarmed by the ease with which Max Verstappen’s Red Bull was able to overtake Hamilton as he recovered from a low grid position in Jeddah.

He added: “When he came up to pass Lewis, there was absolutely no contest.

“Forget Hamilton/Verstappen from previous years, Lewis was never, ever going to be in this race against Max Verstappen.

“But when Max did the pass on Lewis it was so perfunctory and it was so simple that you just thought, ‘wow, this is a Sunday afternoon drive’.

“Of course it wasn’t, and this was Lewis Hamilton that he was outbraking, but Max just made it look so easy – which is the epitome of the art.”