The German manufacturer is coming off the back of a challenging campaign where it struggled to get on top of the new-rules era, losing out to rivals Red Bull and Ferrari.
Its new W13 car struggled badly with porpoising early on and, despite some good progress over the year that allowed George Russell to lead a Mercedes 1-2 in Brazil, still ended the campaign with a performance deficit to the front as Mercedes fell to third in the constructors’ championship.
But while the team says the year has delivered valuable lessons in helping it understand how best to approach the new ground effect regulations, it is not pretending it fully understands all that went wrong this year.
Asked if the team got a total grip on the car, which means next year’s W14 will have banished all the weaknesses, Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles said in the squad’s regular post-race videos: “I don’t think you can truly now, or even across the winter, state that we know everything about the W13.
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“There have been some ups and downs, very much so, and that’s the part of what I meant by this car has items that we believe we understand and some of them that are still not fully explained as a result of that.
“But if you look at the direction moving forward, the gaps to the front, especially on race pace, we made huge amounts of progress and you only do that by understanding where your problems are, working on them and working as a team.”
Mercedes looks set to shift the concept of its car for next season.
The W13 is believed to have suffered a lot because its peak performance could only be produced when running very low to the ground, which then exposed it to worse porpoising and bouncing.
The change of approach could pay dividends, but Mercedes is still mindful that there remained a big performance gap in Abu Dhabi last weekend between itself and Red Bull, which Lewis Hamilton said summed up the struggles of the year.
George Russell, Mercedes W13
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
“The confidence we have is that we now have our tools, our windtunnel tools, our development tools, our performance tools here in the organization producing performance which is more than our competitors, and it’s allowing us to move further forward relative to them,” Vowles said.
“There is still a void though and Abu Dhabi really showed that. That has to be caught up throughout the winter and I think we have a very good process and system in place to do that.
“That development that you saw throughout the season will continue throughout the winter and I think we will be in a very strong place next year.”
Vowles does think that the Mercedes team is ending the year stronger as an organization, as a result of its need to come together to sort out its mistakes.
“We are a team that is used to success, used to winning, used to being at the front and we weren’t,” he said. “And that really has changed the organization for the positive.
“We are much better as a result of this and that’s the characters that have built and we have built ourselves as a result of that.
“It’s been challenging, there is no question about it. We were not in a position we were used to being in and you have to make sure that as a result of that you adapt to move forward – and we have.
“I think we proved compared to the beginning of the season relative to the end how much we moved forward.”
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
He added: “This team had to pull closer together than ever before. It’s very easy in these circumstances, in these difficult times to pull apart and we didn’t.
“The drivers pulled together, and I am confident we have the best driver line-up on the grid. We have two incredible drivers pushing each other but working as a team to make the car better.
“We have a team both in Brixworth and in Brackley, and at the track as well, all working together with just one goal in mind and that is not to win anymore necessarily. It is to make sure that we understand the package we have, so that we are back to our winning ways next year.”