Hamilton’s arrival puts Mercedes in the spotlight but 2014 is their focus

2013 F1 season preview

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013When Mercedes’ new recruit Lewis Hamilton visited the Stuttgart factory in January he told the staff “I’m very confident that in 2014 we’ll have the best package”.

This says a lot about Mercedes’ attitude to 2013. The new engine rules coming for next year is an opportunity they intend to capitalise on, much as their predecessors Brawn did in 2009.

Hamilton’s arrival from McLaren is just one of the reasons why the team has seldom been out of the headlines during the off-season.

The departure of Norbert Haug, the arrival of Toto Wolff from Williams, Paddy Lowe preparing to move from McLaren and rumours over Ross Brawn’s future at the team paint a picture of a team in transition.

Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche has spelled out the team’s need for success. One win in three years was not their aim and the management changes over the winter reflect that.

Hamilton and Rosberg have been team mates before – the pair were put together in the Team MBM.com (Mercedes-Benz McLaren) squad in European Formula A karting in 2000. Hamilton won the title, Rosberg was runner-up.

The following year the pair made an ambitious step up to to Formula Super A, but ended the season winless. That 2001 campaign was the last time Hamilton ended a year of racing without a victory.

Expect year one of the Hamilton Mercedes project to have more in common with his second season alongside Rosberg than his first. But as his opening words at the factory show, he’s looking at the big picture.

The W04 is an outwardly conservative creation. This may prove no bad thing for a team which got it’s design priorities wrong in 2012, introducing a Coanda exhaust late in the year after focusing on other, less beneficial developments.

While the technical team looks top-heavy and has a glut of big names, that is in part a result of the team running simultaneous development programmes for this year and next. This is something Ferrari – the sport’s only other chassis-and-engine manufacturer – are also doing.

One of the Mercedes most interesting and less heralded hiring of the last 12 months is aerodynamicist Mike Elliot from Lotus. He helped develop the tidy and effective E20 with which Mercedes less well-equipped rivals beat them last year.

While the team are playing down expectation for 2013, reclaiming the position they lost to Lotus is a realistic expectation given their improved driver line-up.

Hamilton and Rosberg led the last two days of testing respectively. But, while conceding the car and team appear to be in better shape this year, both acknowledge they are yet to see where they really stand compared to their rivals.

Their rivals, however, are keeping an eye on the W04s – Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Christian Horner all commented favourably on the car’s performance.

Car 9: Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013Having joined the ranks of F1 race winners last year, bigger things will inevitably be expected from Rosberg in 2013.

His moment of glory in Shanghai probably did more to boost his reputation than three years of beating a late-model Michael Schumacher. He will surely face a tougher opponent this year in Hamilton.

The pair have raced for the same team before and Rosberg speaks fondly of it: “It really reminds, the memories come back from such a long time ago, it’s like 13 years ago. The memories come back and some times it feels exactly like then.”

But he won’t have forgotten that Hamilton came out on top in both their previous seasons together. Familiarity with his team and surroundings may play in Rosberg’s favour to begin with, but he will have outstripped expectations of he ends the year ahead on points.

Car 10: Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013There was a time when it was unthinkable that Lewis Hamilton would ever race anything other than a McLaren-Mercedes in Formula One.

He has been quick to make his mark on his new team, urging the aerodynamic department to press on and pruning the dials on his steering wheel for ease of use.

It’s going to be a fascinating year to watch Hamilton at work, free of the constraints of McLaren but likely to have his work cut out on the track. As he’s pointed out several times, Mercedes were well off the pace at the end of last season.

Confidence in his ultimate success is not high at the moment – 61% of F1 Fanatic readers do not believe he will win a championship for Mercedes by 2015.

Hamilton can be a temperamental driver: we saw how badly his 2011 season was affected by his state of mind. But if Mercedes proves to be the new lease of life he was looking for – and the signs are positive so far – we could see something special from him this year.

Mercedes W04

Mercedes championship form

Mercedes first competed in F1 as a full factory team in 1954, but left at the end of the following season. They returned in 2010, taking over the team which had previously been BAR, Honda and Brawn.

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/stats.csv

1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Championship position 4 4 5
Wins 4 5 0 0 1

Mercedes in 2013: Your view

What do you think Hamilton will achieve in his first year with Mercedes? And how will Rosberg cope with being reunited with his old karting adversary?

Have your say in the comments.

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Images ?? Daimler/Hoch Zwei, F1 Fanatic

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52 comments on Hamilton’s arrival puts Mercedes in the spotlight but 2014 is their focus

  1. Troy Longstaff (@troylongstaff) said on 10th March 2013, 10:40

    Speculation has it that they might be losing some Brawn but have recruited some brains, i.e. half of the technical staff in F1, they’ve had to get a new shoe sponsor as their last Schumacher retired, they bought in a Wolff in sheep’s clothing and someone who talks Lauda than most and they have someone who drives as H.A.M.
    And then there’s Nico Rosberg (sorry, couldn’t think of anything for him!)

    Nonetheless, it could be another season of ups and downs for the Brackley boys!

  2. Jake (@jleigh) said on 10th March 2013, 10:41

    Confidence in his ultimate success is not high at the moment – 61% of F1 Fanatic readers do not believe he will win a championship for Mercedes by 2015.

    I wonder if the results would be the same now, after Mercs impressive Winter testing?

    I expect great things from Lewis this year, he seems to be in a great state of mind, which seems to make all the difference for him. If he performs like he did when he appeared at his happiest last year (USA, Canada, Hungary etc.) he should challenge for the title even if the car isn’t quite up to it.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 10th March 2013, 10:55

      I wonder if the results would be the same now, after Mercs impressive Winter testing?

      Probably. We won’t know how the car performs for certain until it actually races.

      • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 10th March 2013, 13:14

        Yes, but the slightest flashes of speed trigger people to make all sorts of very broad statements. It’s already been spoken amongst the media that not only can Hamilton win races this year, but he can also challenge for the title, which is of course nonsense. However, despite the fact that we are a whole year away and we have no idea of the scenario in 12 months time, Hamilton will undoubtedly enter the 2014 season as the media’s favourite. All the ingredients are in place for Hamilton domination in 2014; in fact the clear talent deficit between the drivers, the strong technical base and the financial and technical backing of an automotive giant sounds rather familiar.

        • Blackmamba (@blackmamba) said on 10th March 2013, 13:20

          Mercedes kinda have a free pass this year, and in my book that makes them pretty dangerous. They have nothing to lose, but are rather waiting to see what drops into their laps. The other BIG 4 teams have all the pressure coz they are expected to beat Mercedes and everybody else to win both championships!!

        • Shreyas Mohanty (@) said on 10th March 2013, 14:37

          +1. I have exactly the same opinions. I can’t help but think we were brothers in a past lifetime @william-brierty (HaHa)

    • I think most are sensible enough to realise he’s unlikely to win a title the year, and since the regulation changes are so significant next year we have no possible way of knowing if Mercedes could win a title; the only reference we would have is past form.

    • Hotbottoms (@hotbottoms) said on 10th March 2013, 17:48

      When you ask “Will Hamilton win the drivers’ championship with Mercedes in the next three years?” what you’re really asking is “Do you think there is 50% or bigger chance that Hamilton will win the championship in the next three years?”.

      If I’d have to name the drivers that I think may win the championship in the next three years, I’d name atleast Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Button, Räikkönen, Webber, Grosjean, Perez, Hülkenberg, Bottas and Rosberg. Of course some are more likely to win the championship than others, but the point is there are many potential champions and only three championships to win, which means there’ll only be 1 to 3 champions in the next three years.

      Personally, I’d say only Vettel has more than 50% chance of winning the championship in the next three years. If the odds at Unibet didn’t change for 2014 and 2015 seasons, betting at any other driver than Vettel to win the championship in the next three seasons would be profitable, if that driver won one or more championships.

      What I’m trying to say is that the 61% result isn’t really the kind of vote of no confidence it first seems.

    • If he performs like he did when he appeared at his happiest last year (USA, Canada, Hungary etc.) he should challenge for the title even if the car isn’t quite up to it.

      I’m not seeing the logic there, since he had the fastest car in the field in 2012. You can’t extrapolate from those results in that car to winning races and challenging for the title when the car isn’t quite up to it.

      • Jake (@jleigh) said on 10th March 2013, 19:17

        It wasn’t the results I was talking about, but the manor of his performances. And you mention him having the fastest car in the field, but in the 3 races I mention there was at least one other car that was quicker or equal during on those weekends.

        • I don’t know what you mean by the “manor” (or the manner) of the wins you mentioned, all of which came from the front row of the grid in what is generally regarded as the fastest car of 2012. They don’t tell us much about what to expect from the same driver in a car which “isn’t quite up to it”.

          In any case I expect the Merc to be a little worse than not quite up to it in 2013.

          in the 3 races I mention there was at least one other car that was quicker or equal during on those weekends.

          That’s not actually true, and even if it was true it would not support your argument, which seems to be that any time LH fails to set the fastest lap on a GP weekend it means his car was “not quite up to it”.

          • Jake (@jleigh) said on 10th March 2013, 22:33

            I mean the way he massively outperformed his teammate, and, in my opinion beat faster cars. Yes, it’s only my opinion, but take USA for example. It’s pretty difficult to argue that a car that set the fastest lap in every single session of the weekend wasn’t the fastest car. It therefore must follow that the next best car “wasn’t quite up to it”. So actually yes, Hamilton’s performance in USA 2012 tells us a lot about what he is capable of in a car that isn’t quite up to it.

            In any case I expect the Merc to be a little worse than not quite up to it in 2013.

            And you may well be right, but you may also be wrong.

            That’s not actually true, and even if it was true it would not support your argument, which seems to be that any time LH fails to set the fastest lap on a GP weekend it means his car was “not quite up to it”.

            I never made such an argument. My opinion of relative competitiveness is based on the weekend as a whole looking at both cars within the teams.

          • Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 11th March 2013, 0:44

            It’s pretty difficult to argue that a car that set the fastest lap in every single session of the weekend wasn’t the fastest car. It therefore must follow that the next best car “wasn’t quite up to it”.

            I’ll give you points for creativity, if nothing else. Of course by that definition virtually every other winning driver on the grid has also won races in cars which were “not quite up to it”, so there’s still nothing remarkable about LH doing so. There is nothing at all unusual about an F1 driver winning a race in which he did not set the fastest lap and did not start on pole. It happens rather frequently. In fact the driver who does the fastest lap on Sunday is almost always NOT the winner.

            You know, Hamilton is actually a very good driver all on his own. You don’t need to polish his statue like this to make him look good.

          • Jake (@jleigh) said on 11th March 2013, 15:29

            You’ve clearly pigeon-holed me as a Hamilton worshiper and therefore ignoring what I actually say. There’s nothing creative about presuming a car that set the fastest lap in EVERY session was the fastest on the grid.

    • Brace (@brace) said on 10th March 2013, 20:30

      I wonder if Button was given anything above 10% chance to win the title in 2009, even after Melbourne quali and locking out the front row.

  3. davros said on 10th March 2013, 10:45

    great graph!

  4. andae23 (@andae23) said on 10th March 2013, 10:54

    … tidy and effective E21 with which Mercedes …

    I think that should be E20. I will just keep my mouth shut about the graph ;)

    I’m a bit confused with Mercedes’s off-season. They have made a lot of changes, replaced many people, hired Lewis Hamilton etc. The expectation in 2010 were very high: the championship winning team, lots of Stuttgart money, Ross Brawn, Rosberg and even Schumacher. But they failed to deliver, no victories. 2011: again high expectations: surely they would do better than in 2010? But no, again they underperformed, no victories, not even podiums.

    My question is: they did a radical overhaul at the end of 2012, why didn’t they do it by the end of 2011? Clearly what they were doing wasn’t working, as they were even further behind in 2011 than in 2010. What took them so long to figure out that they had to do something radical to turn things around?

    • Blackmamba (@blackmamba) said on 10th March 2013, 13:37

      Mercedes fans talk the team up too much, expecting miracles, while those who are less affectionate about the team talk them down too much, hoping for something akin to a disaster. I suspect the truth is somewhere in-between, not woeful but not particularly spectacular either.

  5. Slr (@slr) said on 10th March 2013, 11:08

    I hope that if Mercedes actually turn out to have a real chance of winning the championship by the end of this season, they actually try to win it this year, rather than put all focus on 2014. I remember when BMW wanted to focus on 2009, but Kubica still had a chance of winning the championship by the penultimate round in 2008, but the team still decided to focus on 2009. They had a poor end to 2008 and 2009 then turned out to be BMW’s worst season in their short time in Formula One. Should Mercedes find themselves in a similar position this year, they really must take advantage of the opportunity because it may turn out to be their last, in spite of all of these people they have brought into the team.

    • Brace (@brace) said on 10th March 2013, 16:47

      If there’s one thing that you can bet on when it comes to big car manufacturers in F1, it’s that they never learn on previously made mistakes.

    • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 10th March 2013, 20:25

      If Hamilton is in with a shout of the championship and Mercedes decide to not develop the car in order to sort the 2014 out, can you imagine him understanding and accepting the decision in the same way Kubica did? No….

    • Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 11th March 2013, 0:59

      Just taking your BMW example a bit further, in recent years a team that has stopped development on a car early, or shifted focus to the next season entirely isn’t guaranteed success. BMW did it as you said in 2008, Ferrari did it in 2009 (although they came close in 2010, the car wasn’t the best) and again in 2011 and we all know how difficult the start of 2012 was for them. Going back further even Toyota with an entire year of testing, state of the art facilities and a massive budget couldn’t build anything more than a midfield car.

      Just because Mercedes say they’ll be title contenders in 2014 doesn’t make it true. If anything the regulation changes make it less certain that any team can say they’ll do well.

  6. vuelve kowalsky said on 10th March 2013, 12:40

    barcelona 2013 has got to be his first victory on a mercedes. I am going there to be a witness of such an event. Shame on rosberg’s victory at china last year. Sometimes history doesn’t pan out as it should be.

  7. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 10th March 2013, 12:41

    Mercedes will do ok, they won’t be the giant killers the press seem to be making them out to be after testing (though wouldn’t that be a great story!), but they’ll do ok. I expect podiums and regular top 10’s from Rosberg and Hamilton. If things fall their way they may just be able to scrap for a win, but I don’t think they will have the outright pace to challenge RBR, McLaren and Ferrari.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 11th March 2013, 19:28

      Yeah, I think that at best they can be there where Lotus was last year – close enough to be a bit of a podium contender in almost all races, and with a couple of chances of winning a race.

  8. Blackmamba (@blackmamba) said on 10th March 2013, 13:22

    Anybody but Vettel pliz, it was cute in the beginning but it’s becoming tedious now.

  9. schooner (@schooner) said on 10th March 2013, 13:49

    Sometimes I wish that there wasn’t so much talk about, and focus on 2014. I understand that the changes will be huge, excitement is high, and the top teams had better already have a program in place and operational for these brand new cars. I’m looking forward to 2014 as much as anybody. That said, we have the 2013 campaign starting in less than a week. Sometimes I get the feeling that this coming season is being treated almost as an annoying chore to get behind you before the real excitement of the sweeping changes in store for next year come around. I know this isn’t entirely true… the teams will certainly be working hard on their machines this year, and the racing should be awesome. Still, 2014 is casting a big shadow.

    • andae23 (@andae23) said on 10th March 2013, 17:58

      I think you’re raising a fair point. It is a bit unfortunate with the rules that they change so little for this year. The teams are already brainstorming on the 2014 car, I believe Ferrari even have a complete design team for 2014. But you’re right, on the ‘eve’ of 2013, let’s focus solely on this brilliant season that lies in front of us. :)

      • Jeanrien (@jeanrien) said on 10th March 2013, 21:44

        Yep Ferrari and Mercedes have both 2 teams for 2013 and 2014, and they should be the 2 teams taking the most advantage of the situation developping both the engine and the car. Don’t know how it will reflect on track thought

  10. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 10th March 2013, 14:17

    I’ve been looking over some old F1Fanatic race reports from Rosberg’s debut season in 2006 (which I can recommend – it’s nice to see how the site has evolved over time, and of course re-read the stories of those days) to see how Rosberg stacked up against a known quantity – his team mate Webber. Apart from impressing in his debut race, though, it’s hard to judge Rosberg’s talent on the basis of that season, because when a Williams featured in those race reports it was usually due to a mechanical retirement.

    So I’m still not sure how good Rosberg really is; perhaps it is also difficult to really win people over in mediocre machinery. In case Rosberg and Hamilton are evenly matched this season, it will be more to the detriment of Hamilton’s reputation than to the benefit of Rosberg’s, unless both are out front and winning races. I hope, indeed, that the Mercedes will be able to challenge for victories, but I expect that much of the Rosberg-Hamilton battle will take place in the midfield.

  11. Häkkimi (@feynman) said on 10th March 2013, 14:46

    Am I the only one who thinks the 2013 engines sound great in general? The last of the V8…

    • dkpioe said on 10th March 2013, 15:25

      f1 engines have always sounded great, whether they be 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 or 16 cylinders

    • @feynman – I quite like them also, although I don’t like the “low” rev limit. Also, people usually say they don’t sound great because they have had the pleasure of listening to the V10’s, which made a fantastic noise!

      • Häkkimi (@feynman) said on 10th March 2013, 17:57

        True. I’ve only recently watched broadcasts of the late 90s to 2002 season. Despite some races with very little overtaking it was incredible racing. I’ll never understood grooved tires but it shows how skilled the drivers of this era were. The cars were skittish and erratic when any slide occurred. When I have some free time on break I will pick up at the 2002 season.

        The V10’s did sound fantastic but then again V12’s did, turbo V6’s.. I am glad F1 evolves so we can appreciate it’s rich history.

        • @feynman – I’m hoping for a brutal noise from the new V6’s akin to the 80’s! The grooved tyres were partially made up for by traction control though (that only applies to 2002 though) but I’m guessing the aerodynamics were also pretty prevalent towards that time! It’s utterly thrilling to watch old footage of Senna’s late 80’s qualifying laps: minimal grip, minimal aerodynamics and well over 1000hp – I respect anyone who could even do a lap in one of them immensely, never mind do what Senna did with it!

  12. tmax (@tmax) said on 10th March 2013, 15:15

    Given that 2013 car is an evolution of 2012, I believe this season will not be radically different from last. Having said that the order is not going to be the same as last year. There could be little bit changes in the top order. From an innovation stand point this is going to be a lame duck season. I am sure most of the teams are spending atleast 50% of their development efforts if not more for the 2014 season already. The reason is straight forward if the basic car and the fundamentals of 2014 is screwed up, it will take a long time to recover from that ordeal.

    Lewis has this ability from child hood to bring the spotlight on to him. He is also media darling. He is the best racer on the grid today. I really want to see him win WDC this year !!!!! Good Luck Lewis. Prove your critics wrong !!!!

    • dkpioe said on 10th March 2013, 15:28

      prove them right!

    • @tmax – I have a strange feeling that 2014 will be dominated by teams using one particular engine and so aero will become irrelevant almost. But for now the loopholes are closing and so really I think driver skill will be a very influential factor, so it bodes well for a good year from a sporting perspective but as you’ve said not so much from a technical perspective!

      As for me, Sebastian Vettel: nobody can argue with four straight world titles, so put your signature in the history books and make it another!

      • tmax (@tmax) said on 11th March 2013, 0:09

        @vettel1 I agree engines will rule the game more than the aero in 2014. If one engine dominates then the game will shift substantially. Like if Ferrari engines dominate then it will kill rest of the field (Toro Rosso and Sauber being not much of a competition) . If Renault then there are three players who can potentially do well RedBull, Lotus and Williams. If Mercedes dominates both McLaren and Mercedes have the potential to do well. That could probably make McLaren rethink the Honda venture. Maybe Mclaren is waiting to see how the Mercedes will fare in 2014 to finalize the partnership.

        After many years in 2014 I guess we can see engines blowing up during the race. The scene where the car is followed by a white magical cloud once the engine blows up is truly emotional. Disappointing some who are the supporters and cheering others who stand to gain on other car’s failure.

        As for Seb that would be a wonderful thing to see etching his name among the League of 4 (WDC).

        Incidentally, I was watching the Brazil 2012 race once again on my DVR yesterday. I must admit even after 4 months, it still feels one heck of a race !!!!! It was also a good warm up for 2013 season. :)

        • @tmax – I don’t think the McLaren-Honda rumours will materialse – the article that Benson wrote was vague at best, sadly. I do feel we may see one engine getting an edge though, which in this very tight grid would make all the difference!

          I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the Brazilian GP – it was truly a cracker and the other highly rated race of last year I feel need to be re-rated – Abu Dhabi is only an 8 at best compared to what without doubt was a 10 in Brazil!

  13. Wasn’t Mike Elliott at McLaren until the end of 2008, when they won the drivers championship? In fact, Mclaren have not won a championship since then. And by coincidence Lewis Hamilton was the driver who won that championship. Perhaps Lewis and Mike are hopng to repeat the success they had the last time they were in the same team!

  14. Bobby Balboa (@bobby-balboa) said on 11th March 2013, 8:23

    Has anyone else noticed that it is going to be very difficult to distinguish between Hamilton & Rosberg driving this year as they both have yellow helmets!!!!! I know the color of the camera on the top of the car can be used to recognise which driver it is but the 1st thing you notice is the helmet.

    I know it’s easier on TV but for those of us that attend the live races it can be quite difficult without the aid of a panning camera. However I guess either aren’t willing to change their color to help us out. Good job Murray has retired or we would be back to the days of an ever correcting Martin Brundle in the comentary box

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 11th March 2013, 8:34

      @bobby-balboa The camera colours are easy to spot so most of the time it won’t be a problem.

      The onboard camera view from the roll bar camera will be tricky though. The way I’ve been telling them apart is looking for the Mercedes logo on the front of the helmet – the one with the yellow background is Hamilton’s, the silver one Rosberg’s.

  15. Aled Davies (@aledinho) said on 11th March 2013, 13:31

    As a Hamilton fan, I can’t wait for this season. I think now that Lewis is finally free of all the Mclaren stuff (I dont think they ever elt him be his own man despite being a 21 time grand prix winner and world champion they always viewed him as a kid still) I’m expecting to start seeing the Lewis Hamilton I always thought ‘d see after he initially burst onto the scene. He showed a new level of maturity last year and I think that will stand him in great shape for this season. Mercedes are building a great team there now with funding in place to match Red Bull, Ferrari and Mclaren. They obviously see Hamilton as their man to take them forward!

    Still not sure how well they will do this season but I’ve got no doubt that Lewis will win at least once this year. Particularly looking forward to seeing wet races and how lewis deals with the situations about when to change tires etc!

    Anyway great season ahead..hopefully Merc can be right in the mix! if it’s as close as everyone thinks then it’s the better drivers you will see making the difference

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