Wolff admits Mercedes must change car design concept
SAHIR, Bahrain. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told his engineers to get back to the drawing board after admitting the team’s car concept wasn’t good enough to challenge for the title this year.
George Russell and Lewis Hamilton qualified sixth and seventh in the first race of the 2023 season in Bahrain, with Russell 0.632 seconds behind Max Verstappen’s pole position time.
While Saturday’s qualifying session is just the first of 23 this year, the size of the gap indicates the team has taken a step back from its main rivals over the winter.
Since the new technical regulations were introduced last year, Mercedes has developed a unique car concept with distinctive narrow side pontoons that no other team on the grid has copied.
Having championed the concept throughout 2022 and determined to stick with it at the start of this season, Wolf admits the team will need changes to consistently challenge for wins in the long term.
“I don’t think this package will end up being competitive,” he said. “We tried our best during the winter, and now we need to regroup, sit down with engineers who are absolutely dogmatic about nothing – there are no sacred cows – and decide in which direction we want to develop. chase to be competitive to win races.
“It’s not like last year where you win a lot of podiums and end up getting there. I am sure that we can win races this season, but we need to look at the medium and long term and what solutions we need. do.”
At the end of the season, Mercedes is planning a major body upgrade, but Wolf said it’s unlikely to be enough to close the gap and challenge for the title this year.
“I don’t know what will happen this year, we can find a silver bullet next week and unlock five tenths in a car, but I haven’t seen silver bullets before,” he added.
“You never know, but definitely in the medium to long term we just need a car that will make us fight for an eighth championship.”
GPS data shows that the new Mercedes competes with the fastest cars in low speed corners, but loses performance in high speed corners.
Wolf said the team achieved its internal goals over the winter but was still falling behind its rivals, leading him to believe that the concept of the car needed to change.
“In this team, we blame the problem, not the person, and at the end of the day, I have responsibilities and I would need to fire myself if I wanted to do something. [to react]- he said. — So, we have all the ingredients for success – people and infrastructure that have won eight championships in a row.
“Last year we made a mistake, we thought we could fix it by sticking with this car concept, but it didn’t work out. We need to refocus on what we think is the right direction – what it is. what we’re missing and that’s why this weekend’s data is very important.
“We’ve seen in GPS where we lack performance and we’ve seen where we’re good and we just need to figure out what it is and whether it’s installing big side pontoons on the car or really subtle things that improve performance. another question.
“Definitely within the group we will enter on unbeaten paths.”