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There is not “one positive news” for Mercedes

There is not “one positive news” for Mercedes

( – ‘It’s all bad’: Toto Wolff has never said anything about his Mercedes team as devastatingly as he did after the 2023 Formula 1 season opener in Bahrain. But the hope of finding contact with the summit again after a disappointing 2022 has dashed, at least for the time being. And the backlog is getting bigger, not smaller.

Toto Wolff cannot hide his disappointment after Bahrain

In 2022, Mercedes comes home from Bahrain with 27 points, this time it was just 16. Of particular concern is the gap over Red Bull, with Lewis Hamilton losing 51 seconds to Max Verstappen in 57 laps of the race. This coincides with Hamilton’s self-assessment on Friday, where he feared they were currently behind.

Wolff is frustrated: “There are no positive things, not one positive news here. There is a lack of speed, there is a lack of downforce, and then of course nothing works, because you will break the tyre,” he says. Interview with “Sky” He stresses that there is now “a lot of things that need to be fixed.”

“If you look at the standings now, Red Bull is on its way to another planet,” Wolff analyzes. “Aston Martin is unbelievable, it’s actually the second fastest on the track when Alonso enjoys a free ride. A year ago they were P17 and P19 in qualifying, now they’re on top here. They deserve it. But for us: PAD.”

What Wolfe said Sunday night

After the end of the international telecast, Wolf usually meets with representatives of the written press on Sunday evenings. Although some time had passed, the sting of the two cars’ poor performance ran deep. In his analysis, sentences like: “Everything is bad.”

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“Qualifying speed is still reasonably good, but we saw the consequences in the race. You don’t have to worry about that: we lack downforce, we slip a lot and we feel like we’re falling backwards,” he says.

“At the end of last season it looked like we had caught up with them and we thought it just depended on which tracks suited us and which didn’t. Now our gap to Red Bull seems to have doubled or tripled,” explains Wolff, who is only interested in the relationship with the best team. “Everything in between, Ferrari, Aston, these are sideshows for us.”

In fact, Mercedes is within striking distance of Aston Martin and Ferrari, according to the tech company’s data interpretations PACETEQ Currently No. 2 and No. 3 in the power rating in Formula 1. But the gap to Red Bull is massive, especially when viewed over the entire race distance.

Mercedes tried a few things out in Bahrain. When the W14 wiggled wildly on the second day of testing and Hamilton could barely contain the rear end, the setup was turned inside out all night. And at the weekend, a different rear spoiler appeared on the car. But you didn’t make leaps and bounds with it.

Wolff thinks the W14 could be a car that needs more downforce. truism. But: “We ended up sticking to the lower downforce rear wing. Maybe the other wing would have helped us with the tire wear.” At the same time, he says, “I don’t think we could have kept the Aston Martins anyway.”

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Painful: Hit by the same engine

Mercedes is in trouble. The fact that the Aston Martin AMR23, equipped with Mercedes power unit and technology, outperformed the factory team only allows to conclude that the Aston design team around Dan Fallows did a better job than the Mercedes design team around Mike Elliott.

Her position is not up for debate, at least from the outside. At Mercedes, fingers are pointed at problems, not at people, as one might hear from the team. But rumor has it that there is a rift of direction within the Mercedes technical team. Because the fiasco apparently became evident in the winter.

You should know: In the second half of 2022, Wolff has spoken publicly about putting Mercedes’ current 2023 concept out to sea. He explicitly announced for the first time in November that “the core of the car, the concept, will change.”

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A few days later, George Russell won the Brazilian Grand Prix. That would have led to a rethink – because the DNA of the W14, as one hears, is not entirely different in the least from that of the W13.

Now finally: Does the concept go to waste?

Bahrain was now a “dramatic wake-up call”, Wolf said, which may have been necessary to finally break away from the previous concept: “Obviously we didn’t manage it last year and thought we’d solve it, by sticking with that concept. That didn’t work. Now we have to fix that. “

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“You have to try everything now, turn the car completely upside down, analyze it mercilessly, then try step by step, then hopefully make big strides,” says the Mercedes team boss.

The rumors that first appeared about the presentation of the W14 before the first tests, which Mercedes may be behind, have come true. According to Wolff, the Bahrain race result was “confirmation of what we saw coming”. Now he pins all his hopes on a new concept: “You have to. There’s no other choice anyway.”

What’s already in the works at the Brackley chassis factory is a major update to the aerodynamics and side body parts. Imola is the sixth race of the season. Mercedes will not remain inactive until then. But a larger throw requires longer development time than a few new blockers.

“I haven’t dreamed of miracles for a long time,” Wolf says regarding the upcoming race in Saudi Arabia. “So I don’t expect miracles on a track that is very limited from the rear. The asphalt there is rough and that is probably our biggest weakness. From this point of view, it can only improve then if the tracks are more front-limited.”