Christian Horner believes Mercedes suffered ‘hangover’ from 2021 battle

Jamie Woodhouse
George Russell, Mercedes, alongside Sergio Perez's Red Bull. Red Bull Ring July 2022.

George Russell's Mercedes alongside Sergio Perez's Red Bull during the Austrian Grand Prix. Red Bull Ring July 2022.

Mercedes fell away from the title battle in 2022, Red Bull’s Christian Horner viewing that as the after-effects of their epic 2021 clash.

The 2020 campaign was as smooth as Mercedes possibly could have hoped for on the way to their latest title double, but as it turned out, Max Verstappen’s victory at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a sign of what was to come.

Verstappen took the fight to Mercedes’ seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton across the 2021 campaign, this battle going all the way to the last lap of the season, where it was Verstappen who took the chequered flag at Yas Marina to win his first World Championship.

It soon became apparent though that the sequel would have to wait, as while Red Bull picked up in 2022 where they left off performance-wise, Mercedes did not have an answer, Ferrari now Red Bull’s rival.

Mercedes won just the one race, courtesy of George Russell in Brazil where Hamilton made it a one-two. Red Bull won the Constructors’ title in comfortable fashion as Mercedes were forced to settle for P3, while Russell was their highest-ranked driver in the final standings in P4, Hamilton P6.

Verstappen took a record 15 wins on his way to a second title in succession, confirming himself as champion in Japan with four rounds still to go.

And in Horner’s view, the weakened Mercedes which we saw in 2022 was a Silver Arrows squad hungover from the prior season.

Asked by GPFans if he would have believed before the season started that it would have gone how it did, Horner said: “You would never have believed it.

“I think that especially off the back of last year, that took so much energy, last year’s championship, and you could see Mercedes had a hangover from that this year.

“I am just incredibly proud of the whole team, how it raised the bar again and came back fighting, adapting to the regulations, and being strategically sharp.

“We were on it when we needed to be and both drivers played their part with some massive victories.

“It was the first time they didn’t have a dominant car, so to be able to beat them last year and to beat them again this year has been an incredible performance.”

Mercedes got it wrong with the W13

A new regulatory cycle in Formula 1 always has its winners and losers, those who get it right and others who get it wrong. File Mercedes and their W13 under that second category.

The team have made no secret of the fact that they went with the wrong concept for the W13, although its most distinguishing feature, that being the zero-pods, was not the root cause of Mercedes’ problems, the team say.

Now, Mercedes understandably are not about to copy and paste what they saw on the Red Bull RB18 and Ferrari F1-75 to create the W14, but there are definitely lessons to be learned from the quality of those challengers as they look to return to the title fight.

The W13 was great on its day, as we saw in Brazil, but poor on others, so Mercedes are chasing a way to recapture that rapid challenger over all different circuit types which they previously had.

Perhaps that 2021 battle did indeed cause Mercedes to take their eye of the ball that was the W13, but as eight-time Constructors’ champs, it would be a surprise if they are not making life much harder for Red Bull once more in 2023.

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