Mercedes has unveiled their new F1 car for the new 2023 season, the F1 W14, and with which they have returned to the all-black livery they used in both 2020 and 2021 and with which they want to return to the fight for the title after a difficult last season.
Forged in the learnings of a difficult 2022, the W14 is striking in its appearance. The underlying concept of the W13 has been retained and development focused on core performance areas. That has led to a car that retains the distinctive DNA of its predecessor and introduces a combination of notable changes that are visible on first inspection – such as the gulley bodywork on the engine cover – and others beneath the surface.
The car’s arresting look isn’t limited to the architecture, either. The iconic black livery from 2020 and 2021 has been refined as part of a significant project to reduce overall weight. Driving the W14 will be Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, who line up for their second season together, supported by Mick Schumacher in his role as third driver.
“Our hopes and expectations are always to be capable of fighting for a World Championship. However, our competitors were very strong last year, and we are playing catch-up,” said Team Principal & CEO of the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team, Toto Wolff. “Racing at the front requires resilience, teamwork, and determination. We face up to every challenge, we put the Team first, and we will leave no stone unturned in the chase for every millisecond. This year, we are going all in to get back in front.”
A Refined Concept
“Last year was difficult but it came with lots of learnings,” Toto commented. “I hope 2023 will be proof that we have understood how to unravel the problems and improve the package of the car.”
“W13 certainly had performance which we never were able to unlock and put all its downforce on the ground. Our car performed very well at the end of the season. However, we still had the famous bouncing at some circuits and the car never gave the drivers good feedback, which limited them in being able to really push. We have tried to keep all the goodness of the W13 and address its weaknesses,” he continued.
The challenge of unlocking the performance in last year’s car, while troubleshooting the problems that the team could address in-season, was met head on by both Brackley and Brixworth. Notably, the development over the year led to a memorable one-two finish at the São Paulo Grand Prix. The progress throughout 2022 excites Technical Director, Mike Elliott.
“Last year, once we had figured out what we needed to do, it took a huge amount of work to get ourselves moving forward. Towards the end of the season, you could see the performance improving and the winter has been a reset. We have done all the things that we wanted to do with the W13 last year but weren’t able to because of resource constraints or because our focus was elsewhere fixing other issues,” he said.
Areas targeted include reducing overall weight, giving the drivers a more consistent car balance across the speed range, and better matching the aerodynamic characteristics to the demands of the aero regulations. This is borne out in areas such as a significantly lighter chassis, revised front suspension geometry, cooling system adjustments and a refined aerodynamic concept based on last year’s learning.
“With this generation of cars, the performance is all in the detail. When you look at the W14, you will see the DNA of the W13 but also a lot of evolution and detail improvement,” Elliott added.
All in Performance
“Our colours going forward will be silver and black.” So said Toto at the launch of last year’s car and for 2023, the Team returns to the latter in the name of performance. Hitting the weight limit is a significant challenge with this generation of cars, and the Team has taken inspiration from the legendary creation of the original Silver Arrows. However, instead of stripping back paint to shiny aluminium beneath, it will be sleek black carbon fibre on the W14.
“We were overweight last year. This year we have tried to figure out where we can squeeze out every single gram. So now, history repeats itself. You will see that the car has some raw carbon bits, along with some that are painted matte black. Of course, when we changed the livery in 2020 the main driving factor was to support the diversity and equality causes which are always close to our heart. The colour black became part of our DNA at that point, so we are pleased to return to it,” Toto commented.
The historical links don’t end there, however, with the black livery also echoing the 1993 Sauber C12. That car utilised ‘Concept by Mercedes’ power and signalled the three-pointed star’s return to the pinnacle of motorsport for the first time since 1955.
Incoming freeze and reliability fixes
30 years on from the creation of the Brixworth-built engine that saw Mercedes re-join Grand Prix racing, the factory in Northamptonshire is once again a hive of activity. With the Power Unit hardware freeze in effect, focus has shifted to two key areas: reliability and software.
“It’s the busiest time of year,” said Hywel Thomas, Managing Director of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP). “We’ve got the final performance software freeze of this regulation cycle ahead of the start of the season so that’s been a lot of work. We have found the most performance recently through the way we use the engine and that means software upgrades. Knowing that it is the final opportunity for development has ensured it’s been a real push to pack in as much work as possible.”
The challenges presented by the W13 weren’t limited to the chassis, either. The effect of the bouncing on the Power Unit was of concern, and reliability fixes have been implemented. “By the end of the season, the engines were battered and bruised,” Hywel continued. “We have looked at the design changes made on the chassis, along with those on the engine, and done the work as a team. The biggest changes on the Power Unit this year are the reliability items to make ourselves more robust if we find the car hitting the ground.”
Diversity driving performance
The Mercedes-AMG F1 W14 E PERFORMANCE was unveiled at Silverstone, the home of British motorsport earlier today. Helping launch our car were members of our latest cohort of Team apprentices, and PETRONAS interns. The Team’s commitment to building a more diverse workforce remains a significant priority. Our apprenticeship and intern schemes, along with Accelerate 25, have aided significant progress in this area. But there is still more work to be done.
“It’s fantastic to have some of our 2023 apprentices and PETRONAS interns help us launch this year’s car. It is a reminder of the Team we aspire to become. Our commitment to becoming a more diverse and performant organisation is unwavering and we are pleased with the steps we have made,” Toto said.
The Accelerate 25 programme formalises our ambition of at least 25% of all new team members coming from under-represented groups. Since launching two years ago, our percentage of female employees has risen from 12% to 16% with team members from a minority ethnic background growing to 9% from 3%, as of January 2023.
“These numbers are positive developments and we aspire to more. Two years on from the launch of Accelerate 25, now is the right time to reflect; we can be pleased with the progress we have made and need to be clear how we move forward. Our focus is not just about recruitment, though; it is also about retaining and developing our diverse talent. We will continue pushing to achieve our aims in this area,” Toto said.
The year ahead
Reliability, correlation, and learning will be the focus when it comes to pre-season testing in Bahrain. With just three days of running before the first race weekend of the season, an efficient and successful test is imperative.
“We never really got on top of the car balance last year. All the normal work we do at the beginning of the season didn’t happen because of the problems we were trying to rectify,” Mike commented. “We’ve got to learn as much as we can, to work out how to get the most performance out of the car and what we can learn to feed into the next developments.”
“The chassis side have got an enormous amount of work that they want to complete to learn,” added Hywel. “We need to be in the background doing our job and helping rack up the mileage.”
That symbiotic relationship between Brackley and Brixworth was crucial to the team’s progress last year. “We worked together, worked out how we can take what we have got on both sides and improved in all areas. It’s exciting to see what the result of that continued closeness is this year.”
Toto added: “The entire organisation was pushing flat out last year. When we realised that the car wasn’t where we wanted it to be, we mobilised every reserve we had. That never stopped throughout the season. We are now getting ready to start the next season. I see so much effort, motivation, and energy in the organisation to launch a car that will eventually be competitive enough to fight at the very front of the grid.”
That energy is something that inspires both Lewis and George. “I have been a part of this team for over a decade and the efforts of everyone never cease to amaze me,” Lewis commented. “I find it inspiring how diligently and passionately each person approaches their work.”
George added: “I have been incredibly impressed with how the Team developed the car throughout last season. We have been building momentum throughout 2022 and we’re excited to see how that has progressed over the winter.”
And what about their initial thoughts on the W14? George continued: “Aesthetically it looks great! It’s bold, aggressive and stands out.” Lewis added: “To see the evolution of the car and the changes that have been made is fascinating. We’ve redesigned, optimised, and innovated so many parts of the car and that is impressive. And I love the new livery! It says, ‘we mean business’.”
Last season brought George’s maiden pole position and Grand Prix victory. He is eyeing further successes this year and raring to go. “It’s been a long winter and there’s plenty of anticipation to see if the W14 lives up to our expectations. I’m excited and, while there’s a lot of talk at this point in the season, we now need to see how we perform when the car takes to the track.”
For Lewis, the motivation within burns bright as he looks to come back from the first winless season in his career. “I’m excited to go racing again. I feel calm, energised, and have my focus sharpened. I’m ready to do what’s necessary to win.”
Lewis and George begin their second season together as team-mates but there’s a change in Reserve Driver for 2023. Mick Schumacher joins the Team after two years spent as a race driver at the Haas F1 Team. The 23-year-old German said: “I’ve always felt very close to Mercedes. I am very happy to be a part of the Team and I know how important my role will be in aiding the development of the W14. I am committed to giving it my all to contribute to our performance in this competitive environment.”