Former Mercedes chief reveals where ‘wrong turns’ were taken in fall from dominance

Henry Valantine
Mercedes racer George Russell in the Miami pit lane.

Mercedes racer George Russell.

Former Mercedes executive director Paddy Lowe said the team face a “very difficult” path back to the front of the field, having taken “wrong turns” in the ground effect era.

Lowe was at the top of Mercedes’ technical team in the switch to the turbo hybrid power that kick-started their dominant streak in 2014, and their subsequent fall from the top has left him feeling “a lot of sympathy” for his former team.

Paddy Lowe feeling ‘a lot of sympathy’ for Mercedes

Lowe believes the “wrong turns” the team have taken have come aerodynamically since the 2022 season, with George Russell having admitted in Miami that the team “perhaps overcompensated” in 2024 as they searched for solutions to their previous season’s concerns.

Given the success Red Bull have had in the same period, Lowe, who left Formula 1 and founded sustainable fuel company Zero Petroleum, explained that out-developing their rivals to get back to the front is a “very difficult” prospect in this regulation cycle.

He told Motorsport.com: “I have a lot of sympathy and in fairness if you talk to teams that are doing well, if they aren’t too arrogant, and they will say ‘You should count on having good fortune in this sport when you have a good car and don’t assume it is always from your own brilliance’.

“That is a message that most of us have learned over the years.

“Mercedes have made some wrong turns aerodynamically. The tools that we use are incredibly sophisticated, wind tunnels and CFD and so on but nevertheless highly flawed and all teams will admit this.

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“Therefore, there is always risk you go down an avenue that doesn’t work in real life and then you have to recover, and you can see that has been the case with Mercedes.

“That is very difficult to recover simply over a matter of time.

“Your team has huge numbers of people and all of your machinery for testing and evaluating ideas should be churning out lap time on a daily basis, and if your competitors are doing that and you have, say, lost three, four, six months for whatever reason, even if you get back on track it is very difficult to produce lap time at a higher rate than they are, so you remain with this offset for a long time as you try and claw it back.

“When I look at Mercedes, this is the situation they are in.”

With the cars not being changed significantly for 2025, Lowe believes the regulation reset in 2026 will be the next key chance Mercedes will have to jump their way back up the order.

New power unit and chassis rules are coming into place, resetting the playing field to a certain extent as the teams have to significantly alter their cars.

“The 2026 regulations will be a disturbance that Mercedes are looking forward to see if they can disturb the status quo,” Lowe said.

“But unfortunately today’s formula is very much about optimisation at a micro level on top of some basic structures that you chose or copy or evolve to and then it is about optimisation, and it is very difficult to make step changes within that space.”

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