Mercedes has struggled with their W13 during the ground-effect era of Formula 1, with the car exhibiting porpoising for the majority of the season. Despite this, the team has doubled down on their zero-pod design, with questionable results from pre-season testing in Bahrain.
Lewis Hamilton, the British driver and seven-time world champion, spoke about the potential for a “Plan B” for the W14 and whether he feels in contention for the championship. Hamilton is aiming to break a huge record this year as he looks to be the first driver to take home a race win after completing his 300th race in 2022.
During an interview with Sky Sports F1 ahead of the season-opening race, Hamilton dismissed the idea of a Plan B, stating that rebuilding and redesigning the car would take too much time under the cost cap regulations. Instead, the team will continue to evolve and build the car, pushing it to the limit. Hamilton explained:
“So there’s people talking about a Plan B, there isn’t a Plan B, complete rubbish.
“Ultimately, we are living in a time of the cost cap. To rebuild and redo a design of car, you have to go back to square one and we don’t have time in a season to do that.
“So, we will continue to evolve and build this car and try to push it to the absolute limit. And I know I’ve got the best team behind me to to close the gap, but it’s just finding that performance as fast as we can.”
When asked if he feels the W14 is a championship-winning car, Hamilton responded that he prepared for a championship battle, but whether or not they have the equipment to fight for the championship is yet to be seen. He is confident in his team, stating that they are championship-worthy and have a good foundation to work from.
“We’ll find out over the next couple of days what’s realistic, but that’s what I prepared for, for a championship battle but whether or not we have the equipment to fight for the championship, we’ll find out.
“I do believe I’ve got the team still that are championship worthy and it’s just for us to keep our heads down.
“[Last year] all of us were just like panic mode, trying to figure out what was the issue and then try and fix it. It took us forever to really try and understand it this year.
“We’re starting with a car that doesn’t bounce but it is very, very similar to last year’s car. But there are some positives there and I think it’s a good foundation to work from”
Mercedes had a challenging time during pre-season testing in Bahrain, raising questions about their performance. However, team principal Toto Wolff is confident that the W14 is a good base to work from over the rest of the season, despite some reliability problems and struggles with car set-up.
Red Bull will be the main target for Hamilton after the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but with Aston Martin and Ferrari looking strong, he may have some traffic to pass before he can think about podiums.