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2022 Belgian Grand Prix, Thursday - Steve Etherington

Wolff: We’ll be back in a more potent form next year

2022 Belgian Grand Prix, Thursday - Steve Etherington

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is adamant his Mercedes team will find “more potent form” for their 2023 Formula 1 World Championship campaign, but at the same time is wary of what their rivals might have in the pipeline too.

Almost a decade of serial winning came to an end this year for the German team, it lost its way from the moment they wheeled out the Mercedes W13 with its radical aero package, which in the end bombed as a concept.

Being Mercedes, of course, they did recover somewhat and by the end of the season were closer to the sharp end than they had been all year, so much so that ‘new boy’ George Russell managed to win the Brazilian Grand Prix and secure fourth place in the final championship standings.

In the #44 car, Lewis Hamilton failed to win a race during the course of the season for the first time since his debut in 2007, as a consequence the seven-time F1 world champion finished sixth in the championship, the lowest he has ended a season.

Wolff of course is well aware of the shortcomings of his team, which led to their rapid fall from Top Guys to Chasers; he said on a recent Beyond The Grid podcast: “In terms of performance, you can say after eight consecutive constructors’ titles, coming out of the blocks being half a second off – and I’m being rather on the optimistic side – was certainly something you needed to get used to.

“We talked about it, these last eight years, how we would react if that were to happen – how would we cope with losing? Inevitably we knew that one day it’s going to happen, and here we are.”

By their own admission Mercedes never knew what car would turn up for race weekends, one could argue they never fully understood the W13, what made it quick and what not, which challenged a team that had won a remarkable 15 F1 titles in eight years. But not so in 2022.

Toto: I’m always a glass-half-empty guy, and I see the risks

2JJ98JY Provence Alpes Cote d Azur, France: 24th July 2022; Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, Marseille, France: F1 Grand Prix of France, Race Day: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, Lewis Hamilton takes second place and pours champagne over his team mate George Russell on the podium

Wolff continued: “I’m particularly proud of the team, how we have recovered through the season, because it wasn’t a one-race blip. It wasn’t that there was a clear trajectory that was going up only; we had good races and then we fell back. At the end, I think we’re much closer to our rivals, the front-running cars, than we were at the beginning.

“You have to fail and get it wrong to prosper. In the end, it comes back to the sentence: The days we lose are the days our competitors will regret because we learn the most. Hopefully, the future will be proof of that.”

More pain in 2023 could be on the cards, considering that Red Bull have an exceptional base to build on from the RB18, The Ferrari F1-75 was the best piece of kit at the start of the season and, it too, could auger well for the Reds if, of course, they can get their act together at Maranello.

As for Mercedes, Wolff is cautious but optimistic: “I’m always a glass-half-empty guy, and I see the risks, as a matter of fact, if you’re trying to be logical, Red Bull was very dominant throughout the season. It’s going to be very difficult to have a development slope that is steeper than theirs, and also Ferrari – but I believe in the organisation.”

As mentioned, Mercedes did not quite understand their ‘problem child’ which Wolff explained: “Fundamentally, it’s not about a lack of downforce, but a problem in making that downforce work on the car.

“With our learnings, the values in the team, the empowerment and the no-blame culture, I think we will be back in a more potent form next year – hopefully winning races on merit and fighting for the championship. But is it a given? Certainly not,” declared Wolff.