EVOLUTION OF THE WO5
The first Mercedes F1 car of their new era was designed in 2009 on a restricted development budget while the team were still Brawn GP. Although it had a number of innovative features – a low-profile ‘split’ airbox appeared at the Spanish GP – it proved difficult to adapt to run an equivalent of McLaren’s ‘f-duct’, the forerunner of DRS. Nico Rosberg claimed three podiums, Michael Schumacher none.
After a troubled pre-season – the W02 overheated repeatedly at the first test, requiring a new sidepod design – Mercedes seemed to make little progress. They finished fourth in the constructors’ standings but registered no podiums. Ross Brawn set about bolstering the technical team, recruiting Bob Bell from Lotus at the beginning of the season and Aldo Costa and Geoff Willis later on in the year.
Featuring a ‘double-DRS’ system to boost straightline speed, this car failed to live up to expectations. Rosberg won in China and Schumacher set a time fast enough for pole in Monaco (he was demoted due to a penalty), but the car overheated its rear tyres and struggled to get the front ones to optimum temperature. Mercedes fell off the pace as the season progressed and the Stuttgart board grew impatient.
Toto Wolff joined as executive director (business), Paddy Lowe as executive director (technical), and Niki Lauda as non-executive chairman, with a view to replacing Ross Brawn’s role as team principal. The W04’s strong performance – two wins for Rosberg, one for Hamilton – showed the new structure was beginning to gel. Brawn earned the right to determine the timing of his own departure.