Formula 1: Why a former powerhouse is losing its appeal to drivers

Ever since the incredible Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2021, which saw Max Verstappen take the world championship on the last lap, Mercedes have been on a downward trajectory in Formula 1.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Formula 1
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Formula 1 / Rudy Carezzevoli/GettyImages

Mercedes have been at or near the top of Formula 1 for over the last decade. However, the car concepts the Silver Arrows have been designing since the new ground effect regulations went into effect in 2022 have simply not been as effective as they had hoped.

Meanwhile, teams such as Red Bull, Ferrari, and now recently McLaren have all been spot-on with their design concepts and have been rewarded mightily as a result. All three recently won during a span of four race weekends, something that hadn't happened with any trio of teams since 2018.

Given the major struggles Mercedes have been facing since 2022's W13, their stranglehold on the top spot in Formula 1 has faded away, and things only appear to be getting worse.

As a result, the organization has had a much tougher time when it comes to attracting some of the best drivers. Many believe the departure of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, after a historic 12-year run, is largely due to the team repeatedly not producing competitive concepts with their new cars.

How do the drivers see it?

Drivers were previously attracted to Mercedes with the idea of being able to win championships and drive alongside Hamilton. However, seeing the team falter three seasons in a row and now barely finishing in the points is giving drivers second thoughts.

With Red Bull, Ferrari, and McLaren now at the front of the pack, it leaves Mercedes competing with the likes of Aston Martin, Haas, RB for seventh or eighth place.

Ever since the rumors of lead engineer Adrian Newey’s departure from Red Bull emerged late in the offseason amid the allegations against team principal Christian Horner, the idea of Max Verstappen leaving became a topic of discussion, despite his current contract extending through 2028.

Mercedes have been linked to the Dutch driver, given the supposed exit clause in Verstappen's contract. With the British engineer’s departure now confirmed for early 2025, those links have again popped up.

Rumors suggest that Mercedes have offered Verstappen up to $150 million per year. But extra money is not of great importance for the Dutchman. Verstappen addressed the rumors recently at the Miami Grand Prix, stating the following, according to PlanetF1.

"“It’s really important about having the quickest car, and of course a good environment. That’s what we have currently, and that’s also what I asked for. As long as the environment is right and we have the quickest car, then it’s quite straightforward. At the end of the day, even if let’s say that would be the case, 150 million…money is not going to be the differentiator for me to go somewhere. I’m happy with what I’m earning already, it’s about performance.”"

Max Verstappen

With Mercedes still in search of Hamilton’s replacement, there is no guarantee that they can attract one of the top drivers remaining on the market. While several teams are rumored to be vying for Carlos Sainz Jr.’s signature, the Mercedes of five years ago likely would have signed the 29-year-old by now.

But that Mercedes likely would not be faced with a situation in which Hamilton is leaving to replace Sainz at Ferrari to begin with.

Next. Formula 1: The Miami Grand Prix experience, from the eyes of a fan. Formula 1: The Miami Grand Prix experience, from the eyes of a fan. dark

Given the organization's current status, there are still doubts over what the future holds. Right now, who knows whether or not Mercedes will fall even further down the grid? It could be a much bigger challenge for Toto Wolff or George Russell to convince a talented driver to join the Silver Arrows in 2025.