The W14 emerged and appeared as far off of the pace of Red Bull, if not more, compared to last year, with Team Principal Toto Wolff admitting that the team got things wrong, adding that its design philosophy wasn’t going to work immediately following the season opener in Bahrain.
In Bahrain, Hamilton came fifth, 50.977s behind leader Max Verstappen, with George Russell in seventh, 55.873s adrift of the rampant Dutchman in the Red Bull.
The pair were both comfortably beaten by Mercedes engine customer Aston Martin and its star driver Fernando Alonso, who finished the Sakhir race third.
Thanks to this humbling display, Mercedes turned its attention toward an upgraded B-Spec car with more conventional sidepods amid other design tweaks, breaking cover in Monaco.
However, prior to the weekend in Monte Carlo, Hamilton, back to his best after a lacklustre 2022, was still able to pick up a positive result with second in Australia.
The arrival of the B-Spec W14 in Monaco heralded fourth and fifth-place finishes around the Principality before Hamilton and Russell secured a double podium in Barcelona.
Mercedes was comfortably the second-fastest team in Catalunya, albeit 24 seconds adrift of race winner Max Verstappen. Hamilton backed up the promise shown in Spain with third place next time out in Canada, with Russell’s hopes of a fight for the podium dashed by a hard knock with the wall.
In Austria, Mercedes’ positive trajectory was put on pause, as the team’s grasp of its car and all its relative foibles was tested and the likes of McLaren entered the fold to be best of the rest. Russell picked up the team’s solitary point in the Sprint with eighth and finished just seventh in the race, with Hamilton just behind.
Both drivers were surprised by Mercedes’ lack of pace around the Red Bull Ring, but Hamilton was able to make his way back to the podium with a third-place finish in the British Grand Prix, which he followed up with a pair of fourth-place finishes in Hungary and Belgium respectively.
However, whilst the seven-time World Champion has been a near-constant challenger for podiums, Russell has looked to be a touch off of the pace of his team-mate in recent times.
Having failed to step onto the podium since Spain, Russell has achieved a best result of fifth at the British GP in the subsequent races and entered the summer break off the back of two sixth places in both Hungary and Belgium.
Russell got the better of Hamilton last year but has failed to outqualify him since the debut of the B-Spec W14 in Monaco and has only three Q3 appearances in his last eight attempts, something which Wolff attributes to the fact the current generation of F1 cars are ‘on a knife edge’ and that the W14 “has no sweet spot“.
As it stands, Mercedes is in second place in the Constructors’ Championship with 247 points – a surprise to Hamilton after its sluggish start to the season. The German marque’s tally sits them 51 points clear of Aston Martin, but a hefty 256 points adrift of leaders Red Bull.
So what is Mercedes’ goal ahead of the Dutch Grand Prix kicking off the resumption of the 2023 F1 season?
Chief Technical Officer Mike Elliott says Mercedes’ aspire to keep hold of the runners-up spot it occupies while admitting the team “wants to learn more” from the W14 to aid them next year.
With Aston Martin, Ferrari and McLaren a consistent podium threat and Red Bull a near guarantee to be consistent front-runners, Mercedes’ battle to retain second in the Constructors’ standings will likely go down to the wire in 2023.