Mercedes are set to introduce a new rear wing to the W14 car in time for this weekend’s F1 2023 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix to combat their straight-line speed concerns.
After being restricted to a single victory last year, Mercedes’ performance in the only pre-season test appeared to confirm the team remain short of regular race-winning contention with George Russell admitting a win in Bahrain is unlikely.
However, the process of bridging the gap to World Champions Red Bull is set to start now with a lower-downforce, lower-drag rear wing – said to be one of three available to the team this weekend – sighted on Lewis Hamilton’s car in the Mercedes garage as preparations ramp up for the Sakhir race.
With technical director Mike Elliott teasing on the final day of testing that there would be changes to the Mercedes’ rear end – the team said to have maintained a stable aerodynamic platform throughout testing to provide a direct comparison with last year’s troubled car – the new wing has been designed with the aim of improving the W14’s aero efficiency and protecting the rear axle, both of which are crucial at the rear-limited Bahrain venue.
Having set the standard in terms of engine power for much of F1’s hybrid era, straight-line speed was a clear weakness of Mercedes’ in the first year of the revised, ground effect regulations in 2022.
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Although it was hoped this was related to the team’s problems with porpoising and the setup compromises they had to make, last week’s test revealed straight-line performance remains a shortcoming with Hamilton airing his concerns.
“That was an issue last year and a bit this year too,” Hamilton said.
“The bouncing is mostly gone, sometimes it’s still there, but most of the time it’s not there, which makes things a whole lot better. But we do have some pace to pick up in a straight line.
“We have some things we need to work on, it’s still not perfect and we’re still not able to match the Red Bulls, or the Ferraris, currently.”
The arrival of the revised rear wing comes after Sky Sports F1 reporter Ted Kravitz claimed Mercedes “missed a trick” by prioritising reliability over power unit performance in the first year of F1’s engine freeze in 2022.
With the freeze only permitting tweaks in the name of reliability, Kravitz suspects that Mercedes’ healthy record last season left them with less room for manoeuvre than Honda/Red Bull Powertrains, Ferrari and Renault over the winter.