What Mercedes are planning for the 2024 Formula One season and how former world champion Lewis Hamilton is dealing with not being a title contender for the second year in a row
“We have a very precise plan,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff tells Sky. And this plan is to lead Mercedes back to the top after two difficult years in Formula 1. But: For this to happen, some things have to change in the technical direction of the team, Wolff explains ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix 2023.
Because the Mercedes Formula 1 car for 2024 will possibly look different from the current W14. Wolff at least speaks of a “rethink as far as the DNA of the car is concerned”, without going into more detail.
In the process, Mercedes has already broken away from its actual ideas: the so-called zero-pod concept was discontinued in favour of the current Formula 1 trend of “downwash” sidepods. Mercedes thus took its cue from the current top team Red Bull.
Mercedes won’t be happy with the W14 …
And the current W14 will continue to be used as a development platform. Reason: “Precisely because we have quite a hard time understanding the car, even still, it’s important to learn for next year as well.”
He adds that one has to face reality and realise that the current W14 “simply has the dog in it”, just like the W13 from the 2022 season. “That’s why we are now moving away from this principle very strongly,” says Wolff. “But still [with it] there is still a lot to learn. And we are second in the constructors’ championship, and by a solid margin. That’s good.”
At this point, Wolff is asked if he is therefore optimistic for 2024. He replies, “I’m never optimistic and that’s been the case for the last ten years. “
Hamilton is as motivated as ever
There is certainly no lack of commitment on the part of the drivers. Lewis Hamilton, for example, says he is focused solely on “the now and helping the team become world champions again in the future”.
A difficult year like 2023 could even bring Mercedes advantages in the medium term, says Hamilton: “You learn more with a challenge like this than if you just drive ahead.”
Lewis Hamilton is also vague about this: “I’m focused on the now and helping the team become world champions again in the future. “
What Mercedes is learning in the difficult 2023 season
The whole team shares this attitude. “Every single person really gives their all and puts up with absences from the family, working seven days a week. I try to mirror that commitment,” Hamilton says.
“In the past, it was more about the destination than the journey to get there. Now I appreciate that journey as well, the problems we have, the ups and downs.”
“Every weekend you try to do something with the car that the car doesn’t want to do. But that’s fun for me. Once the car can do more, I like to do more with it. I want it to be able to do so much that we can win again. Because we don’t like to lose. “
Hamilton’s follow-up brings progress
That’s why, he said, he would thoroughly follow up on the 2023 season over the winter break, along with engineer Peter “Bono” Bonnington and Andrew Shovlin, the technical director at the circuit. “We will look at what worked and what didn’t work. You just have to be honest about that,” Hamilton says. “Something like that creates more time for other things.”
The difficult years since 2022 and the internal analysis had already allowed for some optimisations in this way. According to Hamilton, communication in the team has “improved dramatically” because they have faced up to their own problems. “And that has been an interesting process for all of us.