Paddy Lowe sees ‘difficult’ return to top flight for Mercedes

Mercedes dominated Formula 1 between 2014 and 2020, winning a series of constructors’ and drivers’ titles despite sometimes very significant regulatory changes such as between 2016 and 2017. But the German team negotiated the turn of the forceful return of the effect very poorly. of soil in 2022 and now seems a long way from its glory days.

In the winter, Mercedes revised its copy to try to reverse the trend of the first two seasons of the current regulatory era. Alas, the results are even worse than in 2022 and 2023, the team now being the fourth or even fifth force on the field after a quarter of the 2024 campaign.

Paddy Lowe worked at Mercedes from 2013 to 2017 as technical director and was one of the architects of the team’s early success in the turbo hybrid era. For him, a series of bad decisions from an aerodynamic point of view under the current rules is at the origin of the difficulties since 2022. In addition, he explains that the road can quickly become very long before getting out of the rut.

Speaking for Motorsport.com in an interview, Lowe said: “I have a lot of sympathy [pour eux] and I think in fairness, if you talk to successful teams, if they’re not too arrogant, they’ll tell you that you have to rely on luck in this discipline when you have a good car and you don’t you shouldn’t think that it’s always thanks to your own genius.”

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Paddy Lowe, between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, after the 2014 Russian GP.

Photo by: Sutton Images

“It’s a message that most of us have learned over the years. Mercedes has taken some wrong turns aerodynamically. The tools we use are incredibly sophisticated, wind tunnels and CFD [dynamique des fluides numérique] and so on, but they are nonetheless very flawed and every team will admit that.”

“That’s why there’s always a risk of going down a path that doesn’t work in reality and having to put things right, and you can see that was the case with Mercedes. It’s very difficult to recover from such a situation in a very short period of time.”

“Your team is made up of a lot of people and all your machines for testing and evaluating ideas should be improving lap times daily. If that’s the case for your competitors and you’ve, say, lost three, four , six months for whatever reason, even if you get back on track it’s very difficult to improve lap times at a rate higher than them, so you stay with that lag for a long time trying to catch him.”

This is the very nature of this sport and this is why it is so fascinating to watch one champion after another. Empires rise and fall.

“When I look at Mercedes, this is the situation they are in”added Lowe, founder and current CEO of Zero Petroleum, a company specializing in carbon-neutral synthetic fuels.

Does he believe that Mercedes will eventually raise its head? “They may not succeed. It could get worse. That’s the nature of this sport and that’s why it’s so fascinating to watch champions come and go. Empires rise and fall , and I always thought Formula 1 was a bit like that, a bit like the Romans and the Greeks. There are many components to it and complacency can be one of them, and we do. ‘we saw with the Romans.’

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Lewis Hamilton driving the Mercedes W15 in Miami.

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“We were very happy in 1992 at Williams to beat McLaren, who had been unbeatable for several years. And then you come along and you beat them.”recalls the one who participated in the adventure of the Williams FW14B and FW15C. “At first you can’t believe it, but something has changed and a lot of things can contribute to that.”

For Lowe, one of Mercedes’ best chances could be the future technical regulations which will come into force in 2026 and could allow the team led by Toto Wolff to regain its splendor. “The 2026 regulations will be a disruption that Mercedes is looking forward to seeing if they can shake up the status quo.”

“But unfortunately the current formula is very focused on optimizing at a micro-level by relying on some basic structures that you choose or copy, or evolve towards, and then it’s about optimization. It’s very difficult to make incremental changes in this space.”

With Tom Howard

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