mercedes W20 f1

2024 Formula 1: Hamilton’s last Mercedes W15 launched

mercedes W20 f1

The Mercedes W15 broke cover today, the last Silver Arrows seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton will drive for them in the 2024 Formula 1 World Championship.

The 2024 Mercedes F1 challenger needs to be a good car, a winning car to return to the German team of Hamilton and his heir George Russell to relevance after two seasons of Red Bull domination, with Max Verstappen a triple champ thanks to that.

Thus there is nowhere to hide for those who produced the W15, less so for Mercedes F1 team boss Toto Wolff who is obliged to lead his team to glory again after a winless season which nevertheless was good enough for a distant second place.

Red Bull scored twice as many points by the end of the 2023 F1 season, with Verstappen (19) and Sergio Perez (2) winning 21 of the 22 GPs in a season the former serial world champions did not win once.

With their unsuccessful, previous design philosophies for current aero rules binned Mercedes has an all-new car to bridge the gap to the top and return their drivers to the top step of the podium. And they have already talked it up.

Now, on the occasion of the W15 launch, this is what they had to say of their most important F1 car, the W15 which will also happens to be Hamilton’s last Mercedes before he switches to Ferrari next year.

Wolff: We will soon see if we’ve made the step we’ve aimed for

mercedes w15

Our journey towards the start of the 2024 FIA Formula One World Championship season continues today with the launch of the Mercedes-AMG F1 W15 E Performance.

FP1 in Bahrain, the start of the 2024 campaign, lies 15 days away. Just 80 days ago, the 2023 season ended. Despite the lack of racing, the factories at Brackley and Brixworth have been buzzing with activity. The team has been hard at work on a project that began almost 12 months ago.

In the immediate aftermath of a disappointing 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix, the team looked hard in the mirror at every aspect of our operations. A new direction was set, beginning a period of renewal. Despite the limitations of the W14’s pre-existing architecture, there was tangible progress. A hard-fought, year-long battle netted second in the Constructors’ Championship. The mission continues into 2024.

“We know we have a mountain to climb to fight at the very front. There are no miracles in this sport,” Toto Wolff, Team Principal & CEO of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team, commented. “But our ambition and determination are strong. Since charting this new course, development has progressed well. We had several items on our priority list for this car. We will soon see if we’ve made the step we’ve aimed for.”

Big focus has been on improving the previous car’s unpredictable rear axle

mercedes w15 new car

“The design of any car is an iterative process. And a long one at that,” Technical Director James Allison explained. “It stretches back to last year. A new car enables the team to make bigger alterations that are not possible during the season. These are decisions that are taken during the preceding summer.”

These changes include a new chassis, and new gearbox casing. Aerodynamically, as ever, the focus has been on efficiency. The endless quest for finding more downforce with less drag and delivering it to the track in a manner that complements the function of the suspension and tyres.

“A big focus has been on improving the previous car’s unpredictable rear axle,” James continued. “We have worked hard to ensure that both axles, but particularly the rear axle, retain better control of the tyre than on the W14. There’s also been some housekeeping on areas in which we had room for improvement, including the DRS effect, and pit stop performance.”

However, it is the underside of the car where the main differentiating factors lie. James added: “With this current generation of cars, so much of the performance comes from how the floor interacts with the road. Whether or not a car is effective is down to how well that floor is permitted to behave aerodynamically.

“We feel like we have had a good winter, but F1 is a relative game and only time will tell how big a step we’ve made. We’re focused on getting the most from the car we launch, but we are excited by the development race that will follow as the regulations are still young and opportunities abound,” James concluded.

Toto added: “As the saying goes: when it stings, it sticks. I believe the previous two years were necessary for us to readjust, recalibrate and reinvent ourselves in certain areas. That root-and-branch approach is never easy. But we’ve made progress and look forward to taking the next step with the W15. It won’t be a linear path, but when we stumble, we will get back up and keep climbing.”

Wolff: The livery truly reflects who we are as a team

wolff hamilton russell mercedes f1 w15

Another visible difference with the W15? The livery. In a year when the iconic Silver Arrows mark their 90th anniversary, the famous silver returns to complement the iconic black of recent seasons.

“Performance was always at the forefront of our minds with the black livery last year,” Toto explained. “Weight is a crucial factor in this current generation of cars. We knew that, once we were in position to do so, we would bring back the Mercedes silver to accompany the black that has become a pillar of our team identity. The livery truly reflects who we are as a team with the distinctive colours of INEOS and PETRONAS providing important highlights.”

The nose section therefore transforms to silver, with the iconic three-pointed star pattern on the engine cover. The distinguished INEOS ‘Toto Rosso’ red features predominantly on the rear-wing and roll hoop in a nod to INEOS Sport, with PETRONAS green providing a dynamic flow across the car.

The new livery reflects the team’s commercial strength, as does recent news. Blue-chip brands such as SAP, WhatsApp, and Luminar have all joined the team’s partner ecosystem in recent months.

“Our commercial strategy has evolved over recent years,” Toto explained. “We have always been focused on building long-term relationships with partners that share our values and delivering clear return on investment. We have now made the conscious decision to refine our partner ecosystem. We want to concentrate on a smaller, select group of partners, to better serve and deliver on their return on investment. We pride ourselves on trying to be the very best in every single area, and we believe this approach is the way we can achieve this with our partners.”

A Focused Driver Pairing with Hamilton and Russell

wolff russell hamilton mercedes w15

Behind-the-wheel of the W15 will be race drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

“We’ve learnt and grown as a team over the past two seasons,” George commented. “It’s not been plain sailing, but I truly believe the journey we’ve been on will make us stronger in the long run. The whole team has been working incredibly hard and we hope to have made a step with the W15,” he continued.

“The learnings of the past two years have helped us find our direction,” Lewis added. “It’s enabled us to find our north star. It’s still going to be a work in progress, but we will face whatever challenges present themselves with our heads up, with open minds, and work through diligently.”

Dialling out the inconsistent performance of the W14 and its sometimes spiteful rear-end has been a key technical focus. Both George and Lewis are clear on the rewards that could bring if the team has been able to do so.

“We made progress with some of the nastier characteristics of the W14 throughout last year. But we still had a narrow operating window and, once we were outside of that, the car was difficult to drive. If we can continue to widen the operating window of the car, that will provide confidence for us as a drivers and from there, lap time is easier to find,” George added.

Hamilton: I know what this team is capable of

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Lewis explained: “If you’re not comfortable with the car, you’re not able to extract the maximum performance. A more stable, more predictable car will enable us to extract the potential from not only the car, but ourselves as drivers.”

The work the team has put in over the past two years has been an inspiration for both George and Lewis.

“F1 is an incredibly difficult sport. It’s very hard to win. And that’s why we love it. Every woman and man at Brackley and Brixworth is so focused on getting to the top. We continue with that focus and dedication into 2024 and I’m excited to see where that takes us,” George said.

Lewis continued: “I know what this team is capable of. I am incredibly grateful for the work of every single person in this team. Every time you’re in the factory, you can see the sheer drive and determination of everyone. We are all mega-motivated for the year ahead and will be giving it everything we’ve got on the journey ahead.”

Providing cover for Lewis and George will be Reserve Drivers Mick Schumacher and Fred Vesti. Mick continues in the role he held in 2023, whilst Fred steps up to this position following his graduation from the Junior Programme.

Teamwork with Mercedes AMG High-Performance Powertrains (HPP)

george russell mercedes f1 driverAnother key contributor on the journey described by Lewis and George is Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP). Despite being limited to only reliability upgrades of the Power Unit, Brixworth has been focused on delivering every millisecond of performance possible under the regulations.

“We’ve worked incredibly closely with our team-mates in Brackley,” Hywel Thomas, Managing Director of HPP explained. “We all have our piece of the jigsaw we are responsible for. We’re always looking at how we maximise our part, but also how we work together to create the strongest possible package. Despite the homologation of the Power Unit, there’s still performance we can bring.”

This can be found through the efficient integration of the Power Unit each year to the chassis and gearbox. Or the work on the dyno ahead of testing, to ensure mileage is maximised once the W15 hits the track.

“We are focused on providing the highest performing, but also the most reliable product we can. This year, reliability is arguably even more important that in 2023.”

That is because of the record-breaking length of the 2024 calendar which comes in at 24 races.

“It’s quite a big challenge,” Hywel admitted. “We know that not finishing races is detrimental to your points scoring so it’s a huge focus. The change to the regulations to ensure we still have four Power Units across the season is helpful. But we know that with the longest calendar in F1 history, our ability to create the most reliable and performant product possible will still be tested.”

The current generation power unit homologation, including reduced dyno hours, are designed to afford the space for manufacturers to look ahead to 2026. That is a challenge that HPP is thoroughly enjoying.

“To have a rule set that has attracted new manufacturers, and has a clear real-world relevance, is excellent,” concluded Hywel. “It’s a chance to showcase our talent, our innovative approaches, and the possibilities the sport can bring. It’s great, and people walk around with smiles on their faces as they tackle this project.”

The Next Step for Mercedes W15?

The new car gets its first laps at Silverstone later today. From there, the focus turns to Bahrain.

Toto said: “We’re intrigued to see how the car will perform. We hope to have solved some of the inherent problems and we will get our first indications of the progress we’ve made during pre-season testing. From there, we will understand more about the challenge that is ahead of us. There are no crystal balls in this sport. But we will at least know the gap we are aiming to close down. Our ambition is strong and we’re ready to get going.”