Olav Mol believes Mercedes should be praised for coming up with their zero-pod design, even if the team “didn’t get it going in the end”.
Having strung together a seven-year run of the championship double, Mercedes lost the World title to Max Verstappen in 2021 and then the Constructors’ as well to Red Bull the following season.
Last year’s championship was Mercedes’ trickiest season in more than a decade as their W13 bounced from one track to another, putting the team’s development on the back burner as they first had to resolve that issue.
Although Mercedes made the biggest gains of any of the ten teams in the back half of the season, George Russell ending their win-less streak at the penultimate race in Brazil, the Brackley squad wasn’t able to snatch P2 away from the under-fire Ferrari team.
Ziggo Sport’s Mol reckons they should be applauded for thinking out of the box with the design of their sidepods.
“Mercedes thought it would do things differently with the zero-pod system, which I think is fantastic,” he told Motorsport.com.
“With a completely new car in 2022, we thought they would all look the same so to come within the rules with something so different. During the test they had a normal one the first day and then that zero-pod came, everyone’s mouth fell open.
“That they didn’t get it going in the end, but I yelled from the start that you shouldn’t write them off. That’s simple stuff.
“It is such a large, smart organisation they will eventually find a solution or look at how it is done by someone else – that happens a lot more than we think.”
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has hinted that the team will continue with the zero-pods this season.
Mol has backed the team to bounce back this season, the 60-year-old dreaming of a three-way battle for the championship titles.
“Yes I want Mercedes to compete again this year,” he added. “I hope Mercedes wins three races, Red Bull wins three races and that Ferrari also wins three races.
“And I hope McLaren can do it too and with a bit of luck Alpine too, then we’ll have a great year. That’s where you want to go.
“We have left the dominant Mercedes years behind us, I also think that we will see the effects of the budget cap in the coming years.”
The Dutch commentator believes Mercedes, having been so dominant for so many years, also learned a lot of strategy lessons last season as they found themselves fighting for points rather than running away with the race win.
“Mercedes itself is a very clinical team in structure and way of thinking, that has brought them a lot but also cost them something,” he added.
“Mercedes has only had to think for years: we are at the front, how are we going to fight it out among ourselves? When others joined and it changed, if it didn’t work everything immediately went down the drain. They have learned from that again this year.
“That’s why I think George Russell has come up so well. He learned in his Williams days that he couldn’t win, but at least he brought the car home.
“It was no different with the 2022 Mercedes, they also knew they couldn’t win. Bringing home was not at the back of the field, but in fourth or fifth place. They won a race and a sprint race, all fine. They have learned a lot at Mercedes.”
Read more: George Russell’s Mercedes W14 wishlist suggest zero-pods are here to stay
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