Mercedes plans to introduce a new rear wing to the W14 car in time for this weekend’s F1 2023 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix to address their straight line speed issues.
After being limited to a single win last year, Mercedes’ performance in its only pre-season test seemed to confirm that the team is nowhere near regular race victory, with George Russell conceding that a victory in Bahrain is unlikely.
However, the process of bridging the gap with world champions Red Bull now begins with a rear wing with reduced downforce and reduced drag – reportedly one of three available to the team this weekend – fitted to Lewis Hamilton’s car in to see the race. Mercedes garage as race preparations ramp up in Sakhir.
With technical director Mike Elliott teasing on the final day of testing that there would be changes to the rear of Mercedes – the team said to have kept a stable aerodynamic platform throughout testing to make a direct comparison to last year’s troubled car – the new wing was designed with the aim of improving the W14’s aerodynamic efficiency and protecting the rear axle, both of which are critical at the Bahrain site where the rear is restricted.
Having set the standard for engine power for much of F1’s hybrid era, straight-line speed was a clear weakness for Mercedes in the first year of the revised 2022 ground effect regulations.
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While it was hoped this was related to the team’s problems with porpoises and the compromises they had to make on set-up, last week’s test showed that straight-line performance remains a shortcoming and Hamilton expressed concerns.
“That was a problem last year and a little bit this year,” said Hamilton.
“The bouncing is mostly gone, sometimes it’s still there, but most of the time it’s not there, which makes things a lot better. But we do have some pace to pick up in a straight line.
“We have some things we need to work on, it’s still not perfect and we still can’t match the Red Bulls or the Ferraris at the moment.”
The arrival of the revised rear wing comes after Sky Sports F1 reporter Ted Kravitz claimed Mercedes “missed a trick” by prioritizing reliability over engine performance in the first year of F1’s 2022 engine shutdown.
Because the freeze only allowed adjustments in the name of reliability, Kravitz suspects Mercedes’ healthy record last season gave them less leeway than Honda/Red Bull Powertrains, Ferrari and Renault over the winter.