Mercedes Struggles Continue Despite Major Changes, Says Wolff

Mercedes’ ongoing struggle to fully grasp the nuances of the latest technical regulations persists, despite significant alterations to their car design over the past couple of years, according to team principal Toto Wolff.

The team opted to depart from their prior concept shortly after unveiling their 2023 car, unveiling the extensively overhauled W15 for the current season. However, despite these efforts, Mercedes finds themselves in fourth place in the championship standings after the initial three races.

Wolff acknowledged that the team’s cars have failed to meet the expectations set by their simulations within the framework of the current regulations.

“I think we’ve lost our way at the beginning of ’22 because all our tools and systems [previously] gave us cars that were winning championships every single year,” he said at the Australian Grand Prix.

“Then the new regulations were very much around the ground effect, that means all the suction happens through the floor, and we came out with a car that showed all the promise in the data and in the wind tunnel, but it didn’t deliver.

“Since then we’ve changed everything: The layout, the suspension, the drivers’ position, the gearboxes. But it seems that the fundamental issue is, at the core, we haven’t solved that.”

The Mercedes from last year failed to secure a single race victory, and its predecessor managed only one win. Wolff commented that the W15 represents only a marginal improvement over the team’s last two cars.

“It’s a little bit the same since two years,” he stated. “I think this one is the best of the bad.

“It’s a better platform to work on but it’s still not a car that a driver feels really good about throwing in the corner at 200 miles an hour.”

The car seems particularly sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Lewis Hamilton expressed satisfaction with its balance during final practice at Albert Park, only to encounter difficulties and fail to progress to Q3 a few hours later.

“After FP3… he said that the car is the best in three years,” Wolff stated. “He had so much rear downforce and he feels confident.

“We didn’t change the car a lot. The track temperature changed by five degrees, believe it or not, so that’s nothing, and the car transformed from something that was the best in three years to something that is undrivable.”

He further stated: “We are looking at everything and there’s something which our technology is not showing us because this window of performance is so narrow where the aero works or it doesn’t. The wind picked up in the afternoon, that plays a role but we haven’t really been able to pinpoint it.”

Wolff emphasized that Mercedes will need to allocate additional resources and time during race weekends to gain a better understanding of what adjustments are necessary to enhance their car’s performance.

“We are coming to a point now that we probably need to experiment every single race, not only on Friday, because our performance seems to get worse throughout the weekend,” he stated.

“We are good on Friday and we are good in some of the sessions on Saturday but the more grip we have, the faster it goes, the more we reach the performance ceiling of the car. And our data shows us it’s not the ceiling.”