Mercedes faces F1 difficulties head on

Mercedes seeks new direction

The opening race of the Formula 1 season in Bahrain may have allowed Max Verstappen and Oracle Red Bull Racing to continue where they left off in 2022, but it produced a crisis moment for the once-dominant Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team.

Despite high hopes of starting 2023 with a more competitive car, a P5 and P7 finish in the opening race of the season seemingly confirmed the Mercedes as the fourth fastest car on the grid. This scenario is one which the team’s drivers and leadership will not allow to continue, particularly not after their troubled 2022. 

With a long season and 22 races ahead, Mercedes must now decide whether they persist and attempt to find performance in their current car, with a design philosophy which has not necessarily worked to date, or move in a radically new direction. 

Speaking on the tough opening race, Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff said, “We need to put one foot in front of the other to come back but nobody in this team will throw in the towel. We need to dig deep, deeper than we ever have done before. And we can do that.”

In an open letter to fans released on 11th March, Mercedes stated, “We have been open and searingly honest about where we find ourselves. And we are working urgently and calmly to build our recovery plan, focusing on what needs to happen short term, medium term, and long term to win. We already have developments in the pipeline for the next races – and there will be more to come. But this won’t be the work of a moment; there are no silver bullets in F1.”

Mercedes’ crisis comes in stark contrast to the fortunes of the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 team which has jumped ahead in the pecking order, thus proving that giant leaps in performance are possible when teams pursue radical change. In employing Red Bull Racing’s former head of aerodynamics, Dan Fallows, as their new technical director, Aston Martin has opted to echo Red Bull’s design philosophy, albeit in a car featuring a Mercedes powertrain. 

The recruitment of Fallows demonstrates that Formula 1 teams are not immune from losing key staff when unable to further their career or secure the top job. Fallows worked for Adrian Newey, Red Bull’s chief technical officer, for 16 years before accepting the new role at Aston Martin. 

Another example of this is James Vowles, recently appointed Team Principal at Williams after two decades working at Mercedes’ Brackley base. Having been head of race strategy and then Motorsport Strategy Director, Vowles admits he started to consider the role of team principal, but with Toto Wolff firmly in that position, he leapt at the opportunity to join Williams. 

These examples serve as reminders that the most talented people will depart for pastures new when career development stalls, even when holding senior roles in a successful team and enjoying a strong working relationship with the leadership. 

Make an Enquiry

You can reach us by completing the form below, emailing or calling us directly.  We aim to respond promptly, typically within the same working day.  Thank you in advance for contacting Performance Insights.

* Required Field
Outstanding - this was exceptional. Feedback from the team was unreal, I really thank you for delivering on the key messages!
Thomas Guether, Chief Growth Office, Compass Group


Get In Touch

Call Us Today
Send Us An Email
Enquire Online
Join Us On LinkedIn