By Alexia Tibil
The absolute bliss of stepping on the podium has been a recurrent sensation for the Mercedes in Australia over the years, and thus that exact feeling has been felt by us, the fans once more in 2023.
It’s not only Lewis Hamilton’s podium that has given the team a tremendous boost, but also the W14‘s performance across the whole weekend. Additionally, it is important to mention the fact that with LH’s P2 Mercedes became the first team to get to 250 podiums in the Hybrid Era, a feat that will surely not be easily matched by other teams anytime soon.
The positives for Mercedes were obvious already on Saturday, when even though Max Verstappen grabbed pole, the Team seemed closer to that position than they were in most of 2022. This has to be one of the key positive takeaways for the fans, especially considering how both Lewis and George have struggled to get their cars into the “sweet spot” in qualifying in the past year or so. Truth be told, it has to be said that the Albert Park track has always suited Mercedes, no matter the concept they had. Despite this, the Team have been awfully quiet when it came to their past success on this specific track, meaning that they kept their heads down and worked late hours to get the car as ready as possible. And boy did they succeed!
With George’s superb Qualifying lap and with Lewis securing P3 for Sunday’s race, everything was on the table for the Silver Arrows! Come race day, both Mercedes cars made a spectacular start and quickly overtook Verstappen, which meant that for a few laps we were able to witness a Mercedes 1-2. And before people start pointing fingers at Russell’s issue that forced him to retire the car, one thing has to be highlighted, and that is the fact that Mercedes has rarely shown any reliability issues in 2022 and 2023. Despite Russell’s unfortunate DNF, the W14’s tremendous qualifying pace has to be highlighted. Moving onto the other side of the garage, even though Hamilton was able to successfully manage the unpredictable events of the whole race, it was quite clear there was no way of fighting Verstappen’s Red Bull just yet. However, the fact that Lewis succeeded in keeping Alonso’s fast and furious Aston Martin out of his DRS range for a number of laps can be considered quite an achievement. Taking into account Aston Martin’s tremendous leap in performance in 2023, being able to fight and beat them is a big positive for Lewis and the Team.
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Although it is going to take another few upgrades and tweaks before the W14 can become a race-winning car, the Australian Grand Prix has given a glimpse of how well it can perform on tracks that suit its concept. The positive showing at Albert Park has certainly provided fans with a reason to remain optimistic, but the coming weeks could bring us a few more things to get excited about. The big news of the month has been Mercedes’ announcement that Mike Elliot and James Allison have swapped their positions effective immediately, and this has certainly shaken up the paddock. As we already know, the design Mercedes came up with at the beginning of last year has not been the best, so the Team have decided that change is mandatory in order to be able to fight for a championship in the not so distant future. And so, Allison has been moved back to his old position of Technical Director, and is now again fully responsible for the design of the car, while Elliott was moved to the position of Chief Technical Officer. Although Mercedes have started on the wrong foot in the new era of F1, Elliot’s time as Technical Director is not to be diminished, and not by a bit. If we take a quick look at the W13 and the W14, significant progress in performance can be observed. However, Allison’s influence has been crucial when it comes to the design of Mercedes’ championship-winning cars, and his return might provide the Team with a boost that they needed all along.
With Baku coming right around the corner, the Team has every reason to enter the paddock with renewed energy. Although the track might not have always suited Mercedes’ cars in the past, the European leg is just about to start in a couple of races time, and it’s almost sure to bring a wave of positives for the Team.
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