The trials and tribulations for Mercedes under the current regulations

What a difference a regulation makes. 2014-2021 saw a dominant Mercedes pave the way for 8 consecutive Constructors World Championships. Something no other constructor has managed to do. Under the last major regulation change that was introduced in 2022, Mercedes severely fumbled the ball and has since been unable to drive for wins, with one notable exception.

The missing links - Ross Brawn

One way to understand the calamity Mercedes finds themselves in, is to take a step back and look at how Mercedes became a World Championship team to begin with. Enter a person named Ross Brawn. Ross Brawn is a legendary F1 engineer. He was was the technical director behind both Benetton's and Ferrari's championship wins and is considered the brain behind Michael Schumacher's seven titles. For the 2008 season he became the Team Principal at Honda F1. After Honda announced they would withdraw from Formula 1 the following season, Ross Brawn organised a buyout and took over as owner and renamed the team Brawn GP, and chose Mercedes as their engine supplier. After winning both the Driver's and Constructor's World Championship in its first year, Daimler AG (owner of Mercedes) decided to buy a 75% stake in Brawn GP and renamed it Mercedes. Ross Brawn became Team Principal.

In first half of 2013, Mercedes was battling Red Bull for the lead in the Championship. However, during the summer, the two teams chose different directions. Red Bull put in a massive effort in their 2013 car with full focus to win. Mecedes, since F1 was to introduce a major new regulation in 2014, Ross Brawn decided Mercedes should divert its main effort into next year's car. Red Bull went on to win 2013, but found themselves far behind Mercedes who had managed to leverage the new regulation to build a superior car. The gamble paid off, and Mercedes went on to win eight times in a row. As Mercedes had internal political turmoil, with both Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda trying to assert influence and undermine Ross Brawn, he decided to step down. Toto Wolff took over as Team Principal, to a set table of a beast of a car and a great driver in Lewis Hamilton.

New regulation. New management

Fast forward to 2021, and the next major regulation change scheduled for 2022. The new regulation introduced significant changes in car aerodynamics, intended to improve racing by reducing aerodynamic wake and enabling closer following and racing. Mercedes tried to repeat their 2013 decision, but without the strategic guidance of a seasoned technical director like Brawn, Mercedes faced difficulties in adapting their design philosophy to the new ground effect aerodynamics, which starkly contrasted with their previously successful approach. To summarize, they came up short. This was Toto Wolff's first time as a Team Principal that he came under pressure and Mercedes had bravely pursued a design concept that turned out to be widely different from all other teams. Unfortunately, the concept proved to have too many faults and they have since been unable to make sense of their performance issues and put countermeasures in place.

This highlights the impact and necessity of strong leadership in F1 and raises questions about the current technical direction. The team keeps adding upgrades to the car, but never seems to succeed. In 2026, a new regulatory change is planned to be introduced. Can Mercedes current management sort out their shortcomings and raise to the occasion the second time around?