Toto Wolff offered a grim evaluation about Mercedes’ chances of catching up with and beating Red Bull, claiming it would be against the odds to do so under the current Formula 1 set of regulations.
While Red Bull hit the ground running when the new “ground effect” regulations were introduced in 2022, Mercedes have got their sums wrong big time, and instead of revising their car concept in 2023, they persisted with the flawed one, hitting another brick wall at the end of this season.
However, Wolff revealed Mercedes’ 2024 F1 car, the W15 will be a totally new car, a whole new concept not even remotely related to the troublesome W14.
Facing the media in Abu Dhabi, the Mercedes boss was asked whether he feeling optimism or trepidation with the new car, he responded: “I have never in my life felt optimistic about anything.
“Which makes it a little bit sound miserable. But it’s protected me about managing my expectations and just pushing harder. It’s never good enough. That’s why today, I sit here with a bittersweet feeling. We won P2 today, we lost P1,” he added.
As for the W15, he said: “We’re changing the concept. We are completely moving away from how we laid out the chassis, the weight distribution, the airflow.
“I mean literally there’s almost every component that’s been changed because only by doing that, I think we have a chance. We could get it wrong also. So, between not gaining what we expect to catching up and making a big step and competing in the front, everything is possible.
“If you ask me today, there’s always skepticism but that’s the mentality in the team and that pushes us forward to never give up,” a cautious Wolff maintained.
Mercedes were glad to take second in the 2023 F1 Constructors’ Championship after George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished third and ninth in the Abu Dhabi season finale, beating Ferrari, which made them the first of the losers according to former McLaren boss Ron Dennis.
There is Mount Everest to climb to catch Red Bull
“I think we need to take it on the chin, be humble about it,” Wolff commented on Dennis’ labeling. “And consider today as a good day. Nevertheless, there’s a Mount Everest to climb, in order to catch up with Red Bull.
“I have no doubt that McLaren is going to be right in the mix next year, and maybe Aston Martin and maybe others. We must leave no stone unturned which we do in Brixworth and Brackley.
“And as tough as it is to be reminded that it’s just P2, it’s also a great, great opportunity to come back and strive for the stars,” he reckoned.
Hamilton expressed his concern after Max Verstappen win the race in Abu Dhabi by 17s, especially since Red Bull have not upgraded their formidable RB19 since summer.
Aske how he felt about that, Wolff said: “Red Bull started into these regulations in 2022 with a massive advantage and were able to maintain it.
“And you’ve got to have a lot of respect for their achievements on the engineering side and the driver. And beating them under the current regulations is against the odds, that’s clear.
“But at the same time, we’ve seen with McLaren where an update unlocked a second lap time,” he pointed out, “and AlphaTauri coming strong at the end, and Aston Martin over the winter that there is a key to unlock dramatically more performance.
“I think assessing it in an honest way that this car’s never going to be good enough to fight for championships, we took the decision in the spring that we are going to go back to the drawing board and come up with something new next year.
“But Mount Everest is in front of us,” Wolff insisted in conclusion.
While Mercedes changed their concept since Monaco with regular sidepods compared to the slim ones, the DNA of the W14 was still based on the zero-pod design, which meant it was very unpredictable, decent as some races, horrible at others.
Big Question: Will Mercedes bounce back with a concept change in 2024?
(Reporting by Anges Carlier, Writing by Jad Mallak)