Silverstone hosted Mercedes on Valentine’s Day as their W11 – the car that could add to their tally of 12 championships since 2014 – was unleashed on track for the first time ahead of the 2020 F1 season.
And as the new Silver Arrow hit the circuit, the team emphasised just how important this 100km shakedown session, with Valtteri Bottas driving before Lewis Hamilton, is for the season ahead with just six days of testing on offer this year – two fewer than in 2019.
Technical Director James Allison said: “The shakedown has always been important, but it is particularly precious this year. It’s our last chance to make sure all is well ahead of the first official day of winter testing. If all goes well in the shakedown then we will be well placed to roll out the garage at nine o’clock in Barcelona and just start hitting the laps.
“With a shorter winter testing programme, that last ticking everything off at the shakedown is proportionally more important so we are determined to squeeze every drop of goodness from it that we can.”
Last year Mercedes ran one car in a shakedown, but then brought a very different second spec car to the second week of pre-seasontesting, but Allison said the team would not be repeating this in 2020.
"We will be more conventional this year," he said. "We will still have upgrades for Melbourne that will come in the second week of testing, but the entire new car approach of 2019 won’t feature.
"Last year, the regulations were changed quite significantly, and they were decided quite late in the year. Under those circumstances, doing a launch car and a week two car gave us the chance to build the maximum amount of learning into our Melbourne car. With the regulations being more mature this year and with the opening stab of the 2020 development already being at the same level as the finish of last year’s car, repeating last year’s approach would not make sense."
Trying to get this right will make 2020 the most difficult season, but it is also an amazing opportunity.
As he waited for his turn behind the wheel, Hamilton said he couldn't wait to sample the new car after a long winter away from the track. “It’s a real privilege for Valtteri and myself to be the only people who get to drive this machine and I’m really looking forward to stretching its legs”, he said.
"Today is a really exciting day – finally seeing in person what this team has worked towards so hard. As a driver, you’re just itching to get back into the car.”
With the new era of F1 set to start in 2021, Team Principal Toto Wolff said that the balancing act between developing 2020’s challenger and their 2021 machine would make this season the “most difficult” in years – with the incoming cost cap adding to their task.
“It’s a massive challenge,” said Wolff. “We had a lot of regulatory changes in recent years, but this time we’re effectively tackling a two-year project. Trying to get this right will make 2020 the most difficult season, but it is also an amazing opportunity.
“Every month you start later than your competitors will make it more difficult to catch up. You also have the effect of the cost cap, which means that you will have fewer resources available to throw at things in 2021.”
A record-breaking seventh consecutive constructors’ title is in Mercedes’ sights, but Wolff said nothing has been taken for granted by the Silver Arrows.
“We feel no sense of entitlement to win races or championships, we know that we need to fight extremely hard for that as we had to in every year. This has been our mindset from the beginning,” he added.