Mercedes is in disarray, with a new car being planned, George Russell conceding the title to Red Bull, and Lewis Hamilton unsigned for 2024.
Other Formula 1 drivers and constructors certainly had a worse weekend than Mercedes.
Just look at McLaren‘s disastrous opening race at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Or how about Ferrari and Charles LeClerc’s power failure? For all we know, Esteban Ocon might still be on the track serving a time penalty right now.
But no team is in a more public panic right now than colossal Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished fifth and seventh respectively on Sunday, and the German automaker is already reportedly scrapping the car it spent all winter in hoping that its fortunes will be reversed from an unheard-of third-place finish in the 2022 constructors’ standings behind Red Bull and Ferrari.
Longtime Mercedes principal Toto Wolff said after testing and one weekend of racing that the car it’s putting out on the grid simply isn’t good enough.
“I don’t think that this package is going to be competitive eventually,” Wolff said. “We gave it our best go over the winter and now we all just need to regroup, sit down with the engineers, be totally non-dogmatic and ask what is the development direction we want to pursue in order to be able to win races.”
Mercedes is already working on its Plan B car, hoping to have it ready before it’s too far behind its competitors. Hamilton finished a whopping 51 seconds behind Red Bull race winner Max Verstappen Sunday, and his teammate Russell already said that the constructors’ race is already over.
“Red Bull have got this championship sewn up and I don’t think anybody will be fighting with them this year,” he said.
Admitting defeat with 22 races and eight-and-a-half months left in the season is bleak. But it could get even worse for Mercedes.
Hamilton, the 38-year-old with seven driver’s championships and largely regarded as the sport’s GOAT, is technically not under contract for next season. He’s previously said that something really bad and unexpected would prevent him from remaining with Mercedes, but Wolff was curiously noncommittal.
“There is no point talking about the driver situation for 2024. That is far too early,” Wolff said. “We have to all push in the same direction, the drivers, engineers, and management, rather the throwing in the towel. We have never done that and we will not do that now.”
Wolff and Mercedes already need a new car, Russell already admitted defeat to Red Bull — which finished 1-2 in Bahrain with Checo Perez finishing behind Verstappen — and can’t even commit to Hamilton right now. With a week off before the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah, speculation will run rampant about Mercedes’ future until it can stabilize a normally steady ship.
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