Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff is targeting a 2.5-second improvement in next year’s W15, inspired by the step-up enjoyed by Aston Martin between the 2022 and 2023 Formula 1 seasons.
While Mercedes fumbled out of the blocks yet again this season, as they did when the new F1 aero regs kicked in for 2022, as did Aston Martin. But unlike their Power Unit supplier, at the start of this season, the AM23 was only bettered by the almighty Red Bull RB19.
Fernando Alonso’s fourth place – including his eight podiums – in the 2023 F1 WDC and the team’s P5 in the F1 WCC is a testament to a well-spent winter off-season at Aston Martin’s HQ at Silverstone.
Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast to a panel including Aston Martin ambassador/driver Pedro de la Rosa, Wolff was asked by the Spaniard what he expects from his Mercedes team for the 2024 season.
The Mercedes boss replied: “It was good that Aston Martin was so competitive at the beginning of the season because that at least for us made it clear that the rear end is not the problem. The gearbox is not the problem. The engine is not the problem. The rear suspension is not the problem. We got to look elsewhere.”
Wolff: If you unlock potential you can have a big step forward
The Mercedes boss explained: “That’s why I like having teams that are on the same spec and, the second, thing is that the step that Aston Martin made from last year, being among the slowest teams to the beginning of this season and being number two.
“It shows that if you unlock potential, then you can have a big step forward. Not just bolting on a tenth of downforce, and this is just what we need to find. So we’re gonna make a two-and-a-half-second step like [Aston Martin] did,” declared Wolff.
The Mercedes era of Formula 1 dominance, in which they won 15 of 16 possible F1 titles in eight years remains a unique record-setting feat at the highest level. But last year they slipped to P3 in the F1 Constructors’ pecking order, recovering this year to finish P2 albeit scoring less than half the points amassed by World Champions Red Bull. Also no victories for Lewis Hamilton (two years sans a win) or George Russell this year.
Nevertheless, with P2 in the 2023 F1 WCC, thanks to doing just enough at the season finale Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to keep Ferrari at bay in the final standings, Wolff was chuffed: “It gives me and gives us satisfaction about the outcome of the weekend because that was the target and it’s important also to take these emotions into the offseason.”
Mercedes won 15 titles in eight years of F1 dominance
Wolff added: “There’s no sports team that has won eight consecutive, more titles and for me, it’s been a psychological journey because a great group of people are on this mission together. You grow and you develop, but at the end are you the same person that you’ve been at the beginning of 2013?
“Maybe not, but maybe you’re wiser, maybe you have more experience? And I think getting that balance right for us is a really difficult task, and we’re gonna come back that’s for sure. It’s just maybe rejuvenating and recreating the successful organization.
“When you look at our record, and you’ve been there before, since then, with with the second in a second, first, first, first, first, first, first, first, first, third, second, so you look back in 20 years and you look at that and say that was respectable.
“You also look back and you look at the Red Bull years where they finished fourth or third, and that happened a lot in the last 10 years. It’s not about mistakes, not mystical. It’s physics that we got wrong. We got out of the blocks in a bad way with the regulations and now we were playing a little bit of catchup,” acknowledged Wolff.