Martin Brundle believes it’s evident that the Mercedes F1 team is not at the performance level they were when winning every title imaginable.
Mercedes may have finished second in the 2023 Constructors’ Championship, but it’s been a tough year for the Brackley-based squad as they went through their first winless season since 2011 as the W14 proved inconsistent.
Neither George Russell nor Lewis Hamilton were able to join in the battle with Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, with close opportunities in Singapore and the United States ultimately remaining out of reach.
Martin Brundle: Moving jigsaw pieces has seen Mercedes fall away
With Mercedes winning every title possible between 2014 and 2020, and then wrapping up the Constructors’ Championship in 2021 as Verstappen took the Drivers’, this year marks the second season in which the titles have been out of reach for Brackley.
The fall coincides with the change of regulations to that of the ground-effect cars introduced for 2022, and Brundle believes it’s no coincidence as neither the W13 nor W14 have proven capable of title glory.
“I think there’s no doubt about it, Mercedes quite clearly are not the force they were,” Brundle wrote in a special end-of-year column for Sky F1.
“Because they didn’t get the 2022 car right and they didn’t fix it for 2023.
“And there has been a lot of personnel movement because they’re obviously very attractive people from the era of total domination that they had.
“You see it in other sports, where a group of people seemingly just couldn’t lose, and then all of a sudden, they can’t win. It’s really odd, and all it needs is a couple or three pieces of the jigsaw puzzle changing one way or the other.”
Team boss Toto Wolff has been open about the fact Mercedes headed in the wrong direction with their car concept for 2022 and in early 2023, but shoots of recovery have been visible since turning away from that direction.
James Allison, architect of the most successful Mercedes offerings, is back in the role of technical director and overseeing the development for ’24. With a new technical direction for ’24 openly being worked on, Brundle said it’ll be interesting to see whether the pieces of the jigsaw are back in place next season.
“It’s a mighty team,” he said.
“But they’ve got to align their stars again, and 2024 is a big year for Mercedes.”
James Allison: Mercedes an operation the ‘envy of many’
Speaking to Sky F1 himself at the final race in Abu Dhabi just after Mercedes secured second place in the championship, Allison spoke with pride about the strengths of the team after resuming his day-to-day role in the fold during 2023.
“Considering where the car we launched [was], P2 was the absolute upper bound of what the team could achieve and we did a good job of getting there,” he said.
“That does actually feel surprisingly good, albeit slightly in conflict with our desire to be, unequivocally, the best team. But we have lots of assets – the team itself is full of very strong engineers, an operation that will be the envy of many. Notwithstanding a few mistakes that we made here and there during the year!
“And a driver lineup that I think all teams would look at with an envious eye. We’ve got, in one of our drivers, arguably the most successful person who’s ever sat behind the wheel of a racing car and, in the other one, a very, very promising younger man in George Russell.
“So yeah, we’re a very fortunate team. We need to make that good fortune count next year, and hopefully take it one better than P2.”