Mercedes-AMG F1 W14 in detail: back in black for 2023 | CAR Magazine

Mercedes-AMG F1 W14 in detail: back in black for 2023

Published: 15 February 2023 Updated: 15 February 2023

► New W14 Mercedes racer revealed
► Hopes to improve the third place of last year
► Mick Schumacher joins line-up as test driver

Mercedes is back for 2023 with a point to prove. By Silver Arrows standards 2022 was a disaster; after the events of Abu Dhabi 2021, 2022 was the first time Brackley didn’t win the constructor’s championship in the hybrid powertrain era. Worse still, Hamilton had the first winless season of his entire career. Launched at Silverstone before an initial shakedown on track, the new car looks very different to last year’s W13 – but is best thought of an evolution of the 2022 challenger.

‘Our hopes and expectations are always to be capable of fighting for a World Championship,’ said team principal and CEO Toto Wolff.  ‘However, our competitors were very strong last year, and we are playing catch-up.’

So how does Mercedes plan to return to the top? Keep reading to find out.

F1 season preview

It’s black!

Left mainly unpainted in order to save weight, the W14 swaps silver for black. It’s the modern version of the Silver Arrows origin story; back then, white paint was scraped away to save weight revealing aluminium, and in 2023 silver paint makes way for naked carbonfibre weave. It’s certainly a crowdpleaser, and it’s already contributed a small amount to performance.

Weight, among other things was a huge issue for the W13, and that looks to be fixed for 2023: ‘Ultimately weight is a key goal for us,’ Lewis Hamilton added. ‘We were overweight all year, last year, and so we were carrying a weight penalty – even into the last race. There’s been a heavy focus to try to make sure that that’s not the case this year. [The paint is] the bare minimum and that’s for me is a positive, because that means that we’re all out for performance – it’s not necessarily how it looks.’

Mercedes W14

‘We are on the weight limit of what we wanted to achieve, and obviously when we when we looked at all the weight savings, everybody needed to make a commitment,’ explained Wolff. ‘So it is really a performance issue. There [are] not tonnes of weight that you can save on the paint, but it shows the intent of what we do, and the narrative is just right; not only because of the historical context of how the Silver Arrows were created, but also because our intent painting the car black two years ago is still very valid.’

What’s new?

Essentially everything, though it’s possible to trace the W14’s lineage to last year’s car. Mercedes engineers haven’t scrapped everything – after all, the W13 did finish third the constructors’ championship, and experienced a serious uptick in form towards the end of the season. Most obvious is the return of the W13’s ‘size-zero’ side pods:

‘I think it’s important to be bold in this sport, and I’m still proud of the solutions that were put on the car last year,’ said Wolff when asked about the tiny side pod solution. ‘Our side pod design is not something that we believe was fundamentally the reason why we didn’t perform, [but] know there are no holy cows in our concept. It’s not that we don’t want to follow anybody’s ideas.’

‘We kept staying with the narrow sidepod as it is, but you could well see some development from now on, that could be coming with the upgrades and the sidepods,’ added Wolff. ‘The side pods will change – not very soon – but we’re looking at solutions.’

What else?

Mercedes W14

Most of the others details are unseen or will be revealed at the first in Bahrain: the car is likely changing slightly all the time – look at the renders compared to the show car. However, we can make a few observations already.

The W14 itself looks to be an evolution last year’s car, with the same philosophy of nose and the same controversial size-zero style idepods as before. The back of the car also features an engine cover that resembles last year’s Alpine.

Why no huge changes? Firstly, it’s hard to switch philosophies in between seasons, and secondly because last year’s car wasn’t that bad – it finished ahead of seven other teams after all.  

The line-up of seven WDC Lewis Hamilton and George Russell ticks over into its second year, but in 2023 they’re joined by Mick Schumacher who takes the role of third driver. A new signing from Haas, the German will do much of the sim and development work, and will also stand-in if Hamilton or Russell are unable to race. On the way out is chief strategist James Vowles, who now joins Williams F1 as team principal. 

So is this the car?

Last year Mercedes launched and tested with a more conventional car, and then arrived at the second test with a radical side pod solution. However, after the pain of last year and further reductions in testing time, Mercedes has given its strategy a rethink.

‘This year we went the other the other way around,’ Wolff explained. ‘What you’ve seen is a large part of the car that we’re going to test and race, because it’s fundamentally important to understand the platform and how the car behaves – rather than keeping some bits in the background that may add a tenth or two on pure aero performance.’

Will it be fast?

It’s impossible to say, and we’re not going to get any clues until the first race. And having been burnt for the entirety of 2022 – save for one Brazilian weekend – Mercedes is being cautious about making any performance claims too.

‘On one side, you want to say we will be competitive,’ says Wolff. ‘On the other side, you need to stay humble and realistic.’

‘I wouldn’t say I’m bullish like I was last year, I would say just more cautious,’ adds Hamilton. ‘I know that whatever we’re faced with, we have the best team to to deal with the whatever with whatever we come across now.

Hopefully we hit the ground running but it’s not always the case. I think we showed last year that whatever we’re faced with we can recover.

‘The approach has been “we perhaps won’t be the fastest out of the gate, but we have the potential to close,’ said Hamilton, returning after his first winless season in the sport. ‘Hopefully be closer and hopefully have potential to close the gap early on in the season.’

‘We’re going with it, and I hope when we get in [the W14] it has the characteristics that we’ve asked for. But if not, then we will find a way: the job of the engineers and the designers is to come up with solutions.’

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's Digital Editor, F1 and sim-racing enthusiast. Partial to clever tech and sports bikes