When he joined Mercedes last winter, George Russell would have been dreaming of race wins and a potential title challenge as Formula 1 entered a new era.
In reality, the Silver Arrows massively struggled to adapt to the major regulation changes that came into effect at the start of 2022, falling far behind the performance levels of Ferrari and Red Bull.
Some pundits had suggested that the team were ‘sandbagging’ during the pre-season tests in Bahrain, refusing to show their true potential in order to keep the success of their design a secret, however unfortunately for the Silver Arrows, their struggles were real.
The no sidepod design and ride height caused an aerodynamic phenomenon called porpoising, which caused the W13 to violently bounce and cause both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell a lot of pain when driving the car.
The team were forced to sacrifice the first half of the season in order to investigate the issue, trying experimental setups and focusing all their attention on stopping the bouncing rather than improving the performance of the W13.
It became apparent early on in the season that Mercedes would not be challenging for either championship in 2022 and there were suggestions that the team should have taken a leaf out of Haas’ book from the year prior and abandoned development of their car in favour of a head start on the W14 design.
Mercedes opted to continue upgrading the W13, even after the likes of Ferrari and Red Bull had switched their attention to 2023, but this was a decision that was well thought out, not just out of arrogance.
Upgrades brought to Austin saw the car’s performance increase drastically and Mercedes eventually won a Grand Prix in Brazil as part of a stunning one-two finish.
The reason Mercedes continued to develop the W13 was not to get this first win, but because they needed to understand the new regulations and what had gone wrong before they could even consider starting to plan the W14.
It would not have made sense to begin developing a car for 2023 before they understood the aerodynamics that were making the W13 so slow compared to its rival concepts.
The W14 has already been fired up for the first team by Mercedes’ engineers, showing that the team are making up for lost time in the factory over the winter break.