Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton will be happier at the wheel of Mercedes’ all-new 2024 car.
After dominating Formula 1 throughout the initial ‘hybrid’ era that began in 2014, Mercedes and Hamilton dropped off the boil as the ‘ground effect’ rules came into force from 2022.
Hamilton, in particular, has complained consistently about the car’s cockpit position.
“We have to get back to basics,” team boss Wolff, who was absent at Suzuka and Qatar after knee surgery, told Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I don’t want to hear Lewis say anymore ‘My cockpit is too far forward’.”
However, he insisted that Mercedes has learned much more than that about why the 2022-2023 car concept wasn’t a success.
“We know what we understand and will not pay attention to what we do not understand,” said Wolff. “The biggest problem is that the drivers have no confidence in the car.”
“We have to give them a solid foundation to score good points.”
Wolff also admitted that part of the issue is simply that Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is so far ahead of the rest of the field.
“There is only one man at the moment who stands head and shoulders above the rest,” said the Austrian. “Ferrari, Aston Martin, McLaren and us are all in the same situation.”
“At least we are second in the constructors’ championship, because after all these years we have learned how to optimise our results. It’s just that no one comes close to Verstappen.”
Wolff doesn’t hide, however, that Mercedes best chance to really get back on terms with Red Bull is the next change of regulations – in 2026.
“By 2026 we will be at the top again, but I wouldn’t be in this sport if I didn’t think it was possible to overtake Red Bull,” said the Austrian. “If we can find three or four tenths, then we are part of the fight again.”
Wolff also admits that, amid Hamilton’s long and protracted recent contract negotiations, the seven time world champion had a chat with Ferrari.
“There was a bit of a delay but it was clear that it would end like this, with Lewis staying with us,” he said.
“Some time ago Lewis told me ‘I saw John Elkann at dinner, but know that I’m not going anywhere’. And then when they wrote about his conversation with Ferrari, he said again ‘Toto, I’m not carrying out any negotiations’.”
“There was never an inch of doubt in my mind. And then we also have George (Russell) for another two seasons, who is the future of this team and the next generation after Hamilton, who grew up in Mercedes.”
“We are happy,” Wolff insisted.