The German manufacturer are still trying to fully understand their troublesome W13, which has displayed big performance disparities throughout the 2022 season.
After getting to the bottom of the porpoising issues that plagued Mercedes’ competitiveness at the start of the year, attention switched to extracting the true potential of the W13, which features a unique sidepod design that differs greatly to their rivals’ cars.
Encouraging progress was made prior to the summer break, with Mercedes enjoying a streak of podium finishes and securing their first pole position of the season in Hungary.
But Mercedes endured a miserable qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps, with Lewis Hamilton ending up 1.8s off the pace, before George Russell went on to finish fourth in the race.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff joked the W13 isn’t going to have “the highest place in the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart” and would be better off “in the caves” after failing to challenge for wins so far this year.
The inconsistent performance patterns of the W13 has made a decision over Mercedes’ development for 2023 more complicated.
“It’s a very difficult situation because we obviously have a certain concept of a car,” Wolff explained. “It’s not like we can experiment a lot this year and just simply dial stuff out and test.
“So whatever we decide for next year needs to be carefully evaluated because clearly our data don’t give us the results, and don’t correlate with the reality. We have massive swings in performance that we can’t really get on top of.
“In this very moment, to take a decision for next year, whatever it may be, changing the concept dramatically – how can you be sure that that’s the better direction to go because clearly we’ll be starting a little bit way back?
“That is going to be part of the decisions in the upcoming few weeks about what we want to do about it.”
Mercedes yet to commit to 2023 concept
Wolff said Mercedes is yet to commit to a concept for next season while internal discussions over what to do continue.
“It’s quite difficult to say what is the concept,” he said. “Is it the chassis in its current shape? What is that? Is it weight distribution? Is it where you can put the mechanical and aero balance? Is it the bodywork concept?
“All these different pillars of the car are evaluated and it could mean that some of that goes and some of that stays. And that’s what we’re looking at the moment.”
One-lap pace has been a weakness for Mercedes compared to their performance over a race distance, with struggles to get tyres up to temperature – particularly in cooler conditions like qualifying in Belgium – further hindering the true competitiveness of the W13.
Wolff admitted Mercedes’ failure to pinpoint a specific reason for their performance swings has only made the process trickier.
“Today we are getting it wrong and the non-correlation in various areas is causing us to not perform,” he said.
“Now, maybe there is a single thing that overshadows everything and we are not doing it justice to question every part of the car.
“Are the tyres something that we fundamentally don’t understand and all the rest is good? Or is the aero messing it up? Or the mechanical balance? That is so difficult to dissect.”