Shovlin compares Mercedes’ 2022 struggles to McLaren in 2009
Mercedes' Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin has admitted that there are similarities between his team's struggles this year with their W13 car and the problems their rivals McLaren endured in the 2009 season – as he opened up on the possibility that the Silver Arrows may have to wait until 2023 to stand on the top step of the podium again.
In 2009, Shovlin was working for Brawn GP – who won six of the opening seven races during that fairy tale season for the squad – while McLaren, who had won the drivers’ championship the previous season with Lewis Hamilton, had a tough start to the year, failing to finish on the podium in the first nine races.
However, McLaren improved in the second half of the year, finishing on the podium in five of the remaining races – including two Hamilton victories in Budapest and Singapore. And when asked if he could see any similarities between the two teams, Shovlin admitted: “There may well be parallels."
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“My perspective on that was from the other end; we [Brawn GP] started brilliantly, didn't have the resources to keep up and were struggling to get near the podium by the end of the year,” said Shovlin. “If you looked at the situation with McLaren back then, the car that they launched wasn't really equivalent to the capability within the team.
“When [McLaren] started to understand what they had to do with the regulations, the development rate was really impressive. And a parallel might be that within our team, we're just starting to really get back the enjoyment for that engineering challenge and the development challenge.”
He continued: “It always takes time… There's a lag between your understanding and your learning, and actually bringing bits to the track that make it quicker. But the atmosphere [at Mercedes] is one of a team that's determined to get back to the front. Our goal remains to be the fastest car; whether we can achieve that this year or is that going to take us till next year, I don't know, but we're all fighting very hard for that.”
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When asked when Mercedes might look to stop development of the W13 and focus on their 2023 car, Shovlin replied: “I mean, in Formula 1 you never actually draw a line. It's a gradual blend of resource into W13 drifting downwards and [resource for the W14] drifting up. We're going to need some clarity on the regulations, whether they're going to change, before you'd make a really big shift.
“But every team will have started some work on next year. The difference for us was the early part of the year was very tough, it wasn't making a lot of sense and it was really firefighting. We're just starting to get to a stage now where we can get back to what we would call the business-as-usual development. And that's actually quite exciting.
“There's a lot of happy people at the factory now that we're sort of getting into a phase that's starting to make sense to us... We need to score points, we need to fight in the championships, but the big one is we've got to learn to know what we want to do for next year and to try and get the car back to the front.”