November 13, 2022: George Russell overtakes Lewis Hamilton at Interlagos to take his first Formula 1 Grand Prix win. A one-two punch has given everyone at Mercedes hope of a successful 2023.
November 5, 2023: Lewis Hamilton finished eighth at the Brazilian Grand Prix, and George Russell was forced to retire with an overheated engine after falling out of the points positions. The contrast couldn’t be greater.
Hamilton’s response was “This was a GP who should be forgotten as quickly as possible.” “This is our worst weekend of the year by far,” his colleague summed up.
Team boss Toto Wolff’s face spoke volumes during the race, but afterwards Wolff did not mince his words. “This was our worst weekend in 13 years. This is unacceptable, there are no words to describe it. It was hell.”
However, Mercedes has had encouraging weeks with the US and Mexico. The car’s new ground seemed to work, and Hamilton finished second behind Max Verstappen in Austin and Mexico. Although it was disqualified in Austin.
“We finished second in Austin and Mexico and after a week we got nowhere,” Wolff himself was surprised. He added: “We are a strong team, but you can’t see that in Brazil. We must have done something very wrong.”
Wolff defended Hamilton and Russell. “I can only sympathize with the drivers because they have to drive such a bad car. It was as if they had to drive on three wheels instead of four. This car does not deserve victory.”
For the enthusiasts: Mercedes raised the car a bit higher in Brazil, meaning it produced very little downforce. This had to be compensated for with a larger rear wing, but this hindered them on the straights. The result was that tire wear was very high.
This year, Mercedes never knew in advance whether the car’s settings would work or not. “The developments in this car were really just plastering on a wooden leg. The car is completely unpredictable,” Wolf sighed.
Mercedes also announced last week that technical department head Mike Elliott would leave the team. Elliott, very successful at Mercedes, was responsible for the radical and unique design of the Mercedes car in 2022, which they stuck to this year against the wishes of Lewis Hamilton.
Wolff: “Mechanically, there is something fundamentally wrong with the car. We will have a completely different car next year, and this weekend proves that this is the right move.”
It remains to be seen whether that will be enough to secure victories and the championship again in 2024. “I have to remain optimistic, but Red Bull has such a big lead that they may be able to maintain that lead in the coming years,” Hamilton said.
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