Mercedes ‘trauma’ exposed by McLaren with F1 pecking order place at risk

Oliver Harden
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) leads Lando Norris (McLaren) during the Austrian Grand Prix. Styria, July 2023.

Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) leads Lando Norris (McLaren) during the Austrian Grand Prix. Styria, July 2023.

F1 analyst Peter Windsor believes McLaren’s Austrian Grand Prix performance exposed the “ongoing traumas” at Mercedes, with their place in the pecking order now under threat.

Having taken the decision to abandon the divisive zero-pod concept after the season opener in Bahrain, Mercedes unveiled a heavily revised W14 – complete with a more conventional sidepod design and anti-dive suspension elements – at May’s Monaco GP.

Despite an upturn in results, with Lewis Hamilton leading Mercedes’ first double podium finish of the season in Spain before coming home third in Canada, the team struggled at the Austrian GP with both Hamilton and team-mate George Russell suffering early qualifying exits over the course of F1’s second sprint weekend of 2023.

Even McLaren have caught up with lacklustre Mercedes

Hamilton went on to have a challenging race, with team boss Toto Wolff admitting “the car is bad” in a rare mid-race team radio transmission to his driver.

And with McLaren instantly on the W14’s pace after introducing a major upgrade of their own on Lando Norris’s car in Austria, former title-winning Williams team manager Windsor reckons Mercedes are in crisis having already fallen behind Ferrari.

Appearing on his YouTube channel, he said: “Lando Norris did really well and had a good battle with Lewis for a while – and then just got Lewis and pulled away from him.

“If you’re looking for a watershed moment from the 2023 season, it’s probably that: McLaren blowing Mercedes away; Lewis Hamilton, who was the quicker of the two Mercedes drivers today, blowing him away and pulling away.

“And Toto on the radio admitting that the car was not good – and this after all the upgrades at Mercedes. We’ve seen upgrades at McLaren but nothing like the same steps forward in terms of the amount of money they’re spending within the budget cap.

“So McLaren will be really pleased with that.

“And Mercedes? Not only will they be thinking: ‘Red Bull, impossible; Ferrari have now done what we were hoping to do, which is one kick in the teeth. And then the second kick in the teeth? Now we’re slower than McLaren. Yeah, we caught up to Aston Martin but McLaren have now got us.’

“And Alpine were not that far away. In the back half of the race, Pierre Gasly was doing the same sort of lap times as Lewis and George – in the Alpine.

“So, again, a very, very difficult time for Mercedes.”

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Windsor felt a single moment from the Austrian GP captured up the current situation at Mercedes, with Hamilton responding to a warning about track limits by claiming the car would not turn into the corners.

He said: “The ongoing traumas at Mercedes [are] best summed up probably by Lewis when they were telling them to be very careful with track limits and he said something along the lines of: ‘I can’t keep the car on track, it just doesn’t want to turn.’

“To hear that from a driver of Lewis Hamilton’s quality is, for me, absolutely shocking.”

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