Mercedes appears to be heading for its first Formula 1 season without a win since 2011, but former designer Gary Anderson suspects that there is no light at the end of the tunnel for the German manufacturer, which faces a difficult dilemma heading into the future .
Anderson designed his first Formula 1 car in 1991 for Jordan, the car in which Michael Schumacher would make his debut in Belgium. The now 72-year-old Briton spent most of his career with Eddie Jordan’s team, and later was active as a commentator. “Mercedes may be in the most difficult position I have ever seen a top team in,” says Anderson in his column for The Telegraph. “It’s not just about getting more downforce with the car to go faster. If they do, things will probably only get worse.”
The W14 will largely be thrown into the trash bin, but the question now is what Mercedes will come up with after the winter break. “They have a difficult task and need a blank sheet of paper before 2024, because they have not yet shown exactly what direction they want to take,” the now 72-year-old analyst realizes. “Mercedes will look around and see how Red Bull Racing started the season strongly and is now ending the season strongly.”
According to Anderson, the other sub-top teams also have more stability after 2023. ‘McLaren started the season weakly, but finished very strong. Aston Martin started the season well, then lost its way, reorganized itself and returned to the podium. Even AlphaTauri has shown that they have been able to improve the car during the season. Ferrari has not improved itself so much, but is participating reasonably well. They are absolutely not strong enough to beat Red Bull, but they are close to being the second-best team,” says Anderson.
Copying Red Bull is easier said than done
Anderson believes that Mercedes’ unpredictable level of form does not bode well. ‘Mercedes has never shown that, it’s like a yo-yo. They can be in the front row one weekend and not make the top ten the next. They also say that they don’t know what the cause is,” the Englishman refers to statements by Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff.
“It has become very clear in recent weeks that they have to completely change the philosophy of the car,” says Anderson, who wonders which route Mercedes is choosing. ‘Are they brave enough to just copy the floor of Red Bull, McLaren or Aston Martin? The big point here is the aerodynamic philosophy behind it. You can have a car that looks the same, but it is very different to make a car work the same. Building a great car is like baking a great cake: you have to understand the recipe, not just follow it. They can try to copy Red Bull, but that could make them even worse, because the further philosophy and aerodynamics are not the same.’