Mercedes were so drastically off the pace at the season’s start that their only viable option – a costly one – was to start all over again.
In 2022, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell had to contend with a porpoising car. This season, they’ve had one simply incapable of catching Max Verstappen and Red Bull despite the bouncing having been mostly eradicated.
It is a total rethink rather than copying the Red Bull model that gives Mercedes hope it might be able to close the gap on Verstappen but it is a big if.
As Toto Wolff put it after the season ended in Abu Dhabi with Max Verstappen’s 19th race win from 22: “We took the decision in April to go back to the drawing board and come up with something different for next year.
“We are changing the concept. We are moving away from how we laid out the chassis, the weight distribution, airflow, literally every component has been changed because only by doing that do we have a chance. You could get it wrong also. Everything is possible.”
The Mercedes team principal said it was effectively a Mount Everest for the team to climb over the winter.
The problem is there are no regulation changes coming until 2026, which means a likely continued dominance by Verstappen in 2024 and even 2025 despite the likes of Mercedes and others scrabbling to close the gap.
Mercedes have not won a single race this season – the only non-Red Bull win was that of Carlos Sainz in Singapore – and for Hamilton it is a second straight campaign without a victory.
As for Hamilton’s own take on the season, he said: “Not great. I just finished ninth. Two really bad races, Red Bull won by 17 seconds and they have not touched the car since August or July so you can pretty much guess where they are going to be next year.
“It’s not been a great year in general so there’s not a lot to take from it. The fact that I survived it, that’s probably about it.”