The Silver Arrows began this season notably off the pace, spending the majority of the Bahrain GP significantly adrift from the leaders.
It would be inaccurate to say that Mercedes haven’t shown encouraging signs this season, with both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton showing legitimate top three pace at the Australian GP, which saw the former take a podium finish.
Despite some promising results, there has been great inconsistency from the German outfit this season, whose form has been prone to fluctuate from race to race.
“This car is very difficult to correlate… on track is does something completely different [to the wind tunnel]”.
Moreover, the W13 only seems to operate effectively in a very specific temperature window, making it difficult to set consistent lap times. Even within this window, Mercedes lack the pace to take victories on merit.
Given the calibre of their driver pairing, in conjunction with their relentless pursuit of silverware throughout the hybrid era, their current form is seen as unacceptable.
Desperate to make a recovery, Mercedes have brought a variety of different upgrades and tested several set-up variations over the first four rounds to unlock the potential they believe is in the W13.
Unfortunately for the reigning constructors’ champions, they have admitted to quite considerable correlation issues, complicating their efforts to replicate expected performance from the factors onto the track.
There is also a sense that the radical philosophy of the W13, marked by its distinct sidepods, is sub-optimal, or at the very least is more difficult to maximise. The general sense seems that the Brackley-based team has no clear path forward, a feeling perhaps justified by Toto Wolff’s quotes that Mercedes have “several directions” to improve their machinery.
All this provides the backdrop to this weekend’s Miami GP, where it has been reported Mercedes will decide whether or not to continue their efforts to rescue this season.
Correlation issues and a seemingly overambitious philosophy (not to mention their porpoising) have meant that Mercedes could consider continuing development for this year a waste of resources, particularly given the budget cap.
This is not to say Mercedes will abandon 2022 entirely, but the potentially “fundamental issues” with the W13 may require a complete overhaul for 2023, as opposed to moderate modifications this season.
It is because of this the Mercedes upgrade package for Miami (alongside their scheduled updates for the Spanish GP) must show enough promise to incentivise the Silver Arrows to continue to prioritise 2022.
This will be a critical weekend for Mercedes, as they look to test significant updates.
If the data from Miami is not encouraging, and the team cannot improve in Spain, they could start focusing their efforts on 2023.
— FormulaRacers (@formularacers_) May 4, 2022
Starting early, it should be noted, is no guarantee of success, as Mercedes openly spoke about focusing on the 2022 season before Red Bull made the switch and focused on these new regulations.
However, to rectify their current situation, Mercedes might need to take some steps backwards before moving forward.