Mercedes reveal missed deadlines and ‘chaotic firefighting’ in early F1 days

Sam Cooper
Lewis Hamilton climbs into his W14. Canada June 2023

Mercedes were not always the slick machine they are these days.

Mercedes’ chief operating officer Rob Thomas has detailed how in the early years of the team, the organisation did not run as smoothly as it does now.

The Silver Arrows’ eight consecutive Constructors’ titles rightly earned them a reputation of being one of the most well-run teams in the land but even if they took over a championship-winning outfit, things were not so smooth at the start of their second stint in F1.

Thomas has described how deadlines used to be “optional” and that would naturally result in a loss of both performance and reliability.

Mercedes chief explains early chaos of the team

Thomas joined the team in 2010 and even if Brawn GP had won the title the year before and plenty of staff had stayed on, it was a “chaotic” time, he says.

“There were detailed plans [when Rob joined the team], but they weren’t really respected,” he said. “A lot of internal dates were a bit optional, and we’d do our best to hit those deadlines, but generally we didn’t.

“Things got later and later and what you ended up was people working in a chaotic firefighting way, trying to get parts together.

“We wouldn’t get either the result we needed from performance or reliability either. That all leads to going to the first races in a massively sub-optimal condition, not getting the learning you want and leading to people being burnt out.”

Now the winter period has been optimised to become one of the most effective and important stages of a season, with what Thomas describes as “thousands” of parts being put to the test.

“There are literally thousands and thousands of components arriving, going through inspection and levels of testing,” he said.

“Then they’re built into various sub-assemblies for the Test and Development department, who’ll put them through tests for fatigue, reliability and performance.”

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“Two of the bigger tests are the front 12 axis and rear 12 axis tests, where you take the whole front of the car, the suspension, axles, uprights, build them up and put them through tests that replicate different tracks and conditions,” says Rob.

“These are to test the car structurally and we learn a lot from it. Does the part fatigue, is it doing what we want?”

Mercedes will launch their all-new W15 car on February 14. How romantic!

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