Pundit worried Mercedes concept changes driven by those in ‘the cockpit’, not the engineers

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas looking at the Red Bull RB19. Bahrain February 2023

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas looking at the Red Bull RB19. Bahrain February 2023

David Croft has raised concerns about who within Mercedes has pushed the team’s “changing concept”, worried that those in the cockpit may be having too big of a say.

Earlier this year, the 50s behind the lead Red Bull at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton famously decried Mercedes for not listening to him when it came to designing the W14.

“Last year, I told them the issues that are with the car,” he told the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast. “Like, I’ve driven so many cars in my life, so I know what a car needs, I know what a car doesn’t need.

Did Mercedes’ concept change come from the cockpit or did it come from back at base?

“And I think it’s really about accountability, it’s about owning up and saying ‘yeah, you know what, we didn’t listen to you, it’s not where it needs to be and we’ve got to work’.”

Months later Mercedes put a B-spec car on the track at the Monaco Grand Prix where they not only dropped the zeropods but also introduced a new front suspension layout.

While it initially showed progress, Mercedes claiming a double podium at the next race in Spain, the changes haven’t led to the upswing in the form they wanted with the Brackley squad still mired in the midfield battle.

What followed were comments from Hamilton about “fundamental changes” that he’d “been asking for it for over a year” and “expect to have in future” while last month he said he knows “exactly what we need to do and we have got to have some serious conversations about what we are going to do moving forward”.

It has Croft wondering who is driving the changes at Mercedes.

“I worry with Mercedes who’s wagging these engineering changes?” he said.

“Is the engineering team saying we need to be changing our concept, or is it pressure from those in the cockpit from Lewis and from George?

“Lewis is a vastly experienced racing driver and George has got plenty of experience himself, but you want the engineering team to be driving it because they understand engineering and design and aerodynamics way more than the drivers ever will.

“But I just worry that the changing concept, did it come from the cockpit or did it come from back at base?”

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Is the Mercedes dynasty waning?

Following on from Mercedes saying goodbye to James Vowles at the end of last season, the former motorsport strategy director taking up the reins as Williams team boss, the team will also bid farewell to Loic Serra in the not-too-distant future.

The performance director has signed with Ferrari and is expected to start at Maranello in 2025 but will leave Mercedes earlier than that for a period of gardening leave.

“They’re losing staff, Loic Serra is heading off to Ferrari and they’ll miss him, and there have been others that have gone as well,” Croft continued.

“We often see this that dynasties dissipate after a while, and that group of men and women that came together to create such an amazing dynasty at Mercedes have ticked past midnight and are we starting to wane just a little bit now?”

“If,” he added with a chuckle, “finishing second in the championship is waning just a little bit then Checo Perez is really going to be worried.

“But there are eight other teams who would love to be in Mercedes position. But Mercedes don’t want to be racing for second. But you know that every good thing has to come to an end, and Mercedes dominance has very much come to an end. It’s how they readjust their mindset from here on in.”

Mercedes are second in the Constructors’ Championship where they trail Red Bull by 256 points with Aston Martin 41 behind the Brackley squad.

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