Nico Rosberg suspects Mercedes will be slow off the mark in 2023 but has backed his former team to be amongst the championship contenders.
The Silver Arrows endured a miserable season as they went from clear favourites for the title to upper-midfield runners. As the season progressed, the staff at Brackley were able to understand the disadvantages of the W13 and the year ended on a high with George Russell winning in Sao Paulo.
As the team now works over the winter to prepare next year’s car, there is a question mark as to which Mercedes will turn up.
Even with the progress they made during 2022, it was arguably to get them on a level footing with Red Bull and Ferrari and while those two have been able to work on future plans, Mercedes were forced to play catch up.
Team principal Toto Wolff has suggested as much, remarking that the team could have lost “up to 10 months” in their quest to iron out the W13’s flaws but despite this, former driver Rosberg predicted they would be among the title contenders for 2023.
Speaking on Sky Sports F1’s Any Driven Monday, the 2016 World Champion anticipated a slow start for the Silver Arrows but said they would still be challenging at the top.
“The car inherently has more drag than a Ferrari and a Red Bull,” the German said. “So it doesn’t cut through the wind as well on straights and that’s something that they still need to try and figure out.
“I think that’s the last key that is missing in order to really challenge for wins and championships next year. Now, are they able in these couple of months now over the winter to sort it out? My bet would be that even next year, they would start a little bit behind still.
“Because this year they spent so much time figuring out the problems on the car rather than actually moving forward and developing the car.
“So I think they’ll still be left behind but through the season, the way they’ve been developing, they should have a chance to challenge for the championship next year. I do believe that.”
Having had the season that they have had, Rosberg believes pressure fell away from Mercedes as they accepted the role of hunter rather than hunted. Looking towards 2023, the German believed that could work in Mercedes’ favour as they can focus on the sole goal of overtaking Red Bull.
“I think the pressure has come off the team a little bit now because it’s kind of accepted they are not the best and fastest at the moment. They’re the ones chasing the best which is a different situation. So now the hunt is on.
“For Mercedes, I think they’re massively motivated and they have this wonderfully clear targets which is beat that Red Bull next year, try and get them over the winter. That’s a huge driving force.
“So I think Mercedes mentally will be really strong now in the next couple of months and going into next year.”