Mercedes may have been knocked off their throne as kings of Formula 1 by Red Bull, but they enter the 2023 season ready to challenge and try to re-establish the old order.
The Silver Arrows saw their run of eight consecutive Constructors’ championships come to an end in 2022 after producing their least competitive car of the last decade.
Porpoising became a dirty word in the Mercedes garage with the aerodynamic phenomenon blamed for dropping the Brackley-based outfit down the grid.
Thankfully they didn’t fall too far and by the end of the season, they were back in the mix for race wins, taking the chequered flag in Brazil. Taking what they learnt last year, Mercedes are confident they’ve built a far more competitive car for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell to drive.
Having spent time on the outside looking in when they first returned to F1 in 2010, Mercedes are determined not to lose their place amongst the sport’s elite.
|What||2023 F1 season|
|Where||Across the world|
|When||Sunday 5th March - Sunday 26th November|
|How to watch||Sky Sports and Channel 4|
|Odds (constructors)||Red Bull 10/11, Mercedes 6/4, Ferrari 7/2,|
Mercedes’ made their grand return to Formula 1 13 years ago having last been seen in the sport in 1955, providing the car that helped Juan Manual Fangio win back-to-back Drivers’ titles.
Mercedes-Benz had previously enjoyed plenty of success in the 1930s in Grand Prix motor racing and given that lineage, big things were expected when it was announced they were taking over the Brawn team.
Persuading Michael Schumacher to come back to F1 after a three-year absence to partner fellow German Nico Rosberg only heightened expectations, only for the Silver Arrows to miss the mark in their debut season.
They were largely uncompetitive with Schumacher finishing without a race win or podium finish, a pattern that would be repeated the following year.
Rosberg did at least get the team’s first win in China in 2012, while Schumacher would land the only podium of his Mercedes stint that same year.
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Mercedes finished 2012 fifth in the Constructors’ championship, some way behind the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari, and so it was a major shock when Lewis Hamilton announced he would be swapping McLaren for Mercedes in 2013.
Hamilton replaced the retiring Schumacher and his arrival coincided with an uptick in results in 2013, as Mercedes won three races and took second place in the Constructors’ table.
They were still someway off Red Bull, but F1’s move to V6 hybrid engines in 2014 was the real catalyst for change and ushered in an era of dominance the likes of which had not been seen before.
For the next seven years, Mercedes won every Constructors’ title, with Hamilton winning the Drivers’ Championship six times and Rosberg collecting his sole crown in 2016.
The Silver Arrows were in a league of their own, winning races by an average margin of 23.2 seconds to the next non-Mercedes in 2014, while in 2016 they won 19 of 21 races and took an unprecedented 20 pole positions.
It was run that would make Hamilton the most successful driver in F1 history and only a huge effort from Red Bull and Max Verstappen in 2021 would end Mercedes’ reign.
Given their previous high standards, a 2022 campaign comprising of one win, two pole positions and third in the Constructors’ table was a major disappointment and leaves the team with plenty to prove this season.
After such a troublesome season in 2022, Mercedes are confident they’ve got to the bottom of their issues.
They hope to have struck the right balance between retaining the excellent reliability and race pace they were enjoying at the end of last season and making sure porpoising is a thing of the past.
The early signs at testing in Bahrain have been positive with no bouncing reported by team boss Toto Wolff on day one. However, they remain slower than Red Bull on the timesheets in testing, while a hydraulic failure cut short George Russell’s time in the car on day two.
They had been coy on whether they have done enough to get on a par with Red Bull but Russell didn’t mince is words in testing when saying he didn’t expect Mercedes to be challenging for the win in the season-opener in Bahrain.
Catching Red Bull will prove tricky and with Ferrari also expected to be in the mix, the front of the grid looks set to be congested this year with Mercedes 6/4 to win their ninth Constructors’ title.
Hamilton, who says he has faith in the team to give him a car to compete for wins again following his barren 2022, is 3/1 to win a record eighth Drivers’ title, while team-mate Russell is a 15/2 chance.