Outshone by Ferrari and McLaren in recent races, BBC F1 commentator Harry Benjamin fears Mercedes are not only “getting worse” but that next year may not be any better with the team set to take a “gamble” on an all-new car.
Nearing the end of a season in which the pendulum, at least the one behind Red Bull, has swung between Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren, and Aston Martin, Mercedes may be second in the standings but today they’re fourth on the track.
Unable to take the fight to McLaren at the Japanese Grand Prix, a frustrated Lewis Hamilton finished the race in fifth place behind both McLarens and Charles Leclerc.
Mercedes making ‘quite considerable’ changes for 2024
He was left to rue the team’s lack of progress, saying his issues in the race were “100 percent concept” related and that the car is “such a handful and basically the exact same as last year.”
Mercedes’ woes this season, even if the wake of the introduction of a B-spec car in Monaco, mean next year they’ll have an all-new car on the track.
Speaking at the Suzuka circuit, the team’s trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said: “We are changing the car quite considerably for next year, but whether or not we can solve all the issues that we’ve got on the handling, that will depend on a number of projects delivering.”
He added: “The car will be different. We’ve made a lot of changes to it, but it’s very early in the development of a new car to be able to say we’ve got it sorted.”
F1 pundit Harry Benjamin says he feels for the drivers, especially George Russell, who joined Mercedes from Williams where he was “racing around in the back” only for Mercedes to “muck up the regulations.”
BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast host Rosanna Tennant chipped in on that: “It’s a dud!”
Benjamin agreed, adding: “And it seems to only be getting worse.
“Lewis Hamilton’s punchy comments this weekend saying ‘I’m gonna have to go to the factory to see what they’re doing in the wind tunnel if they are listening to me’.
“Because right now it sounds like Lewis Hamilton is not being listened to by the Mercedes designers.
But while Mercedes are putting their hopes in an all-new car for 2024, the team scrapping the W13/4’s DNA to try something new, Benjamin fears that in itself is a gamble.
Although this year Mercedes have drawn on rivals’ concepts, as have most of the grid, the car is still at its bones based on their 2022 car.
He added: “Mercedes have said ‘Look, we are going to change the car from what we have now, it will be nothing like this for 2024′.
“But they still don’t have a baseline really. If they can change everything for 2024, it’s still a 50/50 gamble.”
Mercedes may be second in the Constructors’ Championship but such is their deficit to Red Bull that the Milton Keynes squad secured the teams’ title in Japan with six races to spare.