Toto Wolff explained that the improvement of last year’s Mercedes car, the W13, threw the team into a perfect storm, losing direction, hence their struggles in 2023.
Mercedes came back to Formula 1 in 2023 with the W14, a car adopting the same aerodynamic concept of its failed predecessor, the W13, and Toto Wolff believes the team was mislead by the improvement of their 2022 car which saw George Russell win the 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
“We had the perfect storm last year because the car got better and better and then you start to question the concept of the car less than you probably should,” Wolff said on Friday. “And now we have to prove that we’re not happy where we’ve landed, we’re overall not happy about the amount of downforce, the mechanical balance, I mean all of it, it never comes alone.
“And I think all these meetings are giving us more clarity, and more focus where we need to tackle in order to turn this around quickly,” he said referring to the crisis meeting the team held at Brackley after Bahrain’s season opener.
“I think we’d really tried hard to make it work,” Wolff added, “because the data that we have extrapolated showed us that this works. And we were proven wrong, very simply. And you can see that the two quickest cars, including the Ferraris – the three quickest cars – that have a similar concept of how they generate performance, and it’s very different to ours.
Simply, we got it wrong
“At a certain stage we came to the conclusion, we got this wrong. Simply, we got it wrong,” he revealed. “Why we got it wrong, we’re still analysing because we follow data and we followed what simulations tell us, in that case we were misguided by those data. And all of us involved in the decision-making process came to the conclusion well, we can’t continue that way.
“We really tried to stick to it and we don’t want to, under any circumstance, run in a one-way street saying, ‘we’re going to make this work no matter what’, because it doesn’t work. And I don’t want to lose more time so my colleagues, so don’t want my colleagues as well,” the Austrian insisted.
To shield his team from pressure, Wolff is adamant all target will be kept within the team; he said: “We have set ourselves, internally, strong targets because we know where the deficit is but I wouldn’t want to talk publicly about it because it would just put pressure where, we have enough pressure doing it ourselves.”
As for expectations in Saudi Arabia; the Mercedes boss said: “I think in motor racing, everything can happen, and Bahrain is a track that is very different and so is Jeddah.
“But there are no miracles in this sport,” he pointed out. “I hope that we can perform better than we did in Bahrain. At that stage of the season, and where we are with our position, it is very much trying to find performance for ourselves.
“I don’t think that we can beat the teams in front of us. That’s the reality. It’s about tuning the car to the best of their [the team’s] abilities here on track. And then see where we end up in Qualifying and in the race,” Wolff concluded.