Vowles expects Mercedes W14 to be ‘mighty’ at specific tracks
Ex-Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles believes the Brackley squad’s W14 car could be “mighty” at specific venues this season despite the troubles surrounding the team’s compromised design.
In light of its performance in pre-season testing and especially in the opening race of its 2023 campaign in Bahrain, Mercedes has acknowledged that the fundamental concept of its car which was carried over from last year’s design is flawed.
The German outfit has recognized the need for it to develop its way towards a more competitive machine in the coming months, and specific upgrade programmes are being established.
But Vowles, who left Mercedes to take the reins of Williams racing at the start of this year, believes the team’s package can mix it up with F1’s front-runners at several venues whose characteristics should cater to the car’s qualities.
“Do I think Red Bull will dominate all the way through the season? No, I doubt it,” explained Vowles.
“I think you’ll see Ferrari will be a lot closer here, and there will be tracks like Silverstone, Barcelona, where Mercedes will be mighty as a result of what I know of their package.
“However, on balance across the season, do I think that they [Red Bull] are the fastest? Yes.”
Russell: Brazil win led Mercedes ‘down the wrong path’
Mercedes’ George Russell has suggested that Red Bull could win every round of this year’s championship.
But Vowles points to aero development and the Milton Keynes’ based outfit’s 10% reduction of CFD and wind-tunnel time as factors that could eventually swing the pendulum away from Red Bull later this year?
“They still have a wind tunnel deficit,” added Vowles. “It’s not as big as I think it necessarily should be to balance things out, but it’s still there. And it still will mean across the season that you’ll see other people moving towards them.
“Plus, with the rules carrying over to next year, you have to keep developing this car, so things will close up. I don’t think it will be this absolute dominance, and that would be boring.
“I think you’ll get ups and downs throughout the year.”
Like Mercedes, Ferrari was disappointed with the start of its season, albeit for different reasons than the Brackley squad.
But Vowles sees both outfits pulling out the stops to improve their fortunes. By no means will either team throw in the towel and write off its 2023 season.
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“I have no doubt that Mercedes and Ferrari last week would have worked every single hour that was available to them to move forward,” he said.
“Giving up for me, it’s more that you’ve stopped that, and I think it’s the other way around. They’ve dug deep last week.
“”he external messaging is more one of actually trying to unload themselves and by saying we’re in the same pain you are, but we’re going to come back.
“It’s a fighting talk. As I see it, it’s more motivational than giving up.”
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