Mercedes have insisted they will not “panic or look for scapegoats” after a disappointing start to the 2023 Formula 1 season in Bahrain last weekend.
Following a torrid 2022 campaign which saw their eight-year streak of constructors’ titles ended by Red Bull, Mercedes had been bullish during the winter over a return to contention this year, but that optimism faded as they were outperformed by not only the dominant reigning champions but also Ferrari and Aston Martin.
Recriminations followed with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton publicly questioning the team’s decision to ignore his advice over the design of their 2023 car, and team principal Toto Wolff describing the Bahrain GP as “one of the worst days in racing”.
With speculation raging about Hamilton’s future with the team, along with other key members of staff, the team released a letter addressed to their fans on Saturday morning in an apparent attempt to calm the situation.
The letter said: “Bahrain hurt. It hurt each one of us, who head into every season determined to fight for world championships. It hurt the team as a whole, after pouring so much hard work into a car that hasn’t met our expectations.
“The situation we face right now isn’t the one that any of us wanted – but it’s the one we have. That’s the reality of it. And the simple questions are: what can we do about it, and what will we do about it?
“We won’t panic or make knee-jerk reactions. In a spotlight as fierce as F1, people are quick to point fingers, or look for scapegoats. But you know us better than that. Inside the team, we talk about having the courage to fail, the character to be accountable and the strength to see failure as an opportunity.
“We have been open and searingly honest about where we find ourselves. And we are working urgently and calmly to build our recovery plan, focusing on what needs to happen short term, medium term, and long term to win. We already have developments in the pipeline for the next races – and there will be more to come. But this won’t be the work of a moment; there are no silver bullets in F1.”
Hamilton, who finished fifth in Bahrain ahead of team-mate George Russell in seventh, has repeatedly expressed a desire to remain with Mercedes in F1 beyond the end of the season, when his current contract expires.
Both the 38-year-old and Wolff had previously suggested agreeing an extension would be a formality, but the team’s apparent failure to provide him with a championship-contending car for a second straight season has led to speculation over whether he could choose to retire or look for a move elsewhere.
There is also great interest in how Mercedes will proceed with the development of their W14 car after Wolff suggested in Bahrain that the team had accepted their current concept will not work.
The statement continued: “We will keep our heads held high – and take this journey step by step, together. We are Mercedes. We know the standards we aspire to, and nobody is flinching when we look at the mountain we must climb. It won’t be easy – but where’s the value in something easy?
“These are the times when character is forged; the times when a team becomes greater than the sum of its parts, tackling difficult problems and conquering them. We’re together through thick and thin – from Toto, Lewis and George, to every single woman and man in the factories in Brackley and Brixworth. And we love that challenge.”
Hamilton and Mercedes will be back in action next weekend at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with every session live on Sky Sports F1, starting with first practice on Friday at 1:30pm.