1996 Formula 1 World Champion Damon Hill has questioned Mercedes’ aero department amid the team’s continued trouble to get on top of the current regulations.

The introduction of V6 turbo-hybrid engines to F1 in 2014 initiated a period of Mercedes dominance that comprised a run of an unprecedented eight consecutive titles.

However, the German marque has only won a single race since the technical rules were overhauled last year, lagging considerably behind reigning World Champions Red Bull.

Having elected to retain its ‘zeropod’ concept at launch this year, Mercedes abandoned the concept and reverted to a conventional sidepod solution at the Monaco Grand Prix.

While Mercedes currently sit second in the standings, the team endured a nightmare weekend in Brazil last time out with Lewis Hamilton eighth and George Russell retiring.

Speaking on the Sky Sports F1 podcast, Hill contends that Mercedes relied on its power unit ascendancy to prolong its success, thus contributing to its ongoing struggles to understand the latest ground effect cars.

“My anxiety is this, which is that for a long time, Mercedes’ dominance really was down to their power unit,” Hill said.

“They had the best power unit for a very long time, and the aerodynamics were always slightly different to Red Bull’s.

“If you remember towards the end of the previous Formula 1 regulations, they persisted with their relatively flat-looking rake on the car, whereas Red Bull was absolutely huge. They led the way and everyone started following Red Bull with this very high rake. It looked like a rat running along the car. It had a very high back.

“But Mercedes stuck persistently or doggedly with their [philosophy], they looked like they were running a different aero concept on their car in the previous regulations, and then along come a new set of regulations.

“What I’m saying is, is the Mercedes aero department missing a trick here? They’ve lost quite a few good aero people to other teams as well, over time.”

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. 05.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Race Day.

Prior to its unexpected slump at Interlagos, Mercedes had been sustaining a positive late-season spell. The addition of a revised floor to its W14 charger saw Hamilton chase Max Verstappen for victory in the United States before he was disqualified, while the Briton also finished second in Mexico City.

Hill’s fellow Sky F1 pundit, Karun Chandhok, believes Mercedes’ fluctuating form across the previous three rounds demonstrates that the side still hasn’t got a handle on its car.

“I think Hamilton was only 10 seconds away from a lap deficit [in Brazil]. I think there are a lot of question marks,” Chandhok cautioned.

“They need to understand as a group where the root of the problem is. They’ve had highs the last few races where they were fast, but let’s not forget they were disqualified in Austin.”

“You can’t compete for the championship if you have these ups and downs without clearly understanding why. Now if they were saying, ‘We know we’re going to struggle here’ or ‘We know we’re going to be weak here, we’ll take it in stride,’ it would have been fine. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

“They don’t seem to fully understand why the highs are the highs and why the lows are the lows. That is a concern that will still be present next year.”

Chandhok asserts that Mercedes are on the backfoot compared to McLaren, who have been a regular podium contender since introducing a heavily revised car in July.

“Since the upgrade in Austria, they [McLaren] have been at the front on every type of track, in every type of corner and in every weekend,” he added. “Wet, dry, they were there. That gives the aerodynamics department confidence that the car is working.

“Mercedes doesn’t have that. This weekend they were slower than the AlphaTauris, Alpines, much slower than McLaren, Red Bull and Aston Martin. It’s just confusing.”

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