Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2022

“Perfect storm” gave Mercedes too much faith in its car design concept – Wolff

2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Mercedes’ team principal Toto Wolff has admitted the improvements the team made in the second half of last season gave it too much faith in the concept behind its Formula 1 car design.

Following an unsuccessful start to last year, Mercedes significantly improved its car and won the penultimate round of the championship in Brazil. The team retained the concept behind last year’s chassis in the new car it launched for the 2023 season.

However at the season-opening round in Bahrain the team discovered it was far off the pace of dominant winners Red Bull, and confirmed it will overhaul the design of the W14. Wolff said the performance gains Mercedes made with the W13 persuaded it to persist with its deign philosophy.

“We had the perfect storm last year,” he explained. “The car got better and then you start to question the concept of the car less than you probably should.

“Now we have to prove that we are not happy where we’ve landed. We are overall not happy about the amount of downforce, the mechanical balance, all of it. It never comes alone.”

The team has had a series of discussions since the first race to decide on a plan of action to improve the W14.

“I think all these meetings are giving us more clarity and more focus where we need to tackle in order to turn this around quick,” said Wolff.

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Wolff said the team had persisted with its original philosophy because the research they had done led them to believe it could be made competitive.

“We really tried hard to make it work because the data that we have extrapolated showed us that this works, and we were proven wrong, very simply. You can see that the three quickest cars have a similar concept of how they generate performance and that’s very different to ours.

“At a certain stage we came to the conclusion we got it wrong, simply, we got it wrong. Why we got it wrong, we’re still analysing because we follow data and we follow what simulations tell us. In that case we were misguided by those data and all of us involved in the decision-making process came to the conclusion we can’t continue that way.

“We really tried to stick to it and we don’t want to, under any circumstance, run in a one-way street saying ‘we’re going to make this work no matter what’. Because it doesn’t work and I don’t want to lose more time [and] my colleagues don’t want to.”

Once the team is able to change course on its car design Wolff expects to see rapid improvements in its performance. “The goals are that, based on the understanding that we have now, over the next iterations of updates and learning, we can shave off a lot of performance deficit because now we know and now we have all taken a decision in which direction to go.”

Mercedes “understand crystal clear what we’ve done and why we ended up in a place that doesn’t bring us performance,” added Wolff. “But understanding it from the scientific side, it’s sometimes difficult to find a way back into real performance onto the car. But we have [made] a big step ahead to what we’ve seen after the test in terms of our understanding.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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12 comments on ““Perfect storm” gave Mercedes too much faith in its car design concept – Wolff”

  1. That’s it bro that’s it, that’s it that’s it.

  2. Imagine if they had binned the concept when the real-world data proved it to be troublesome, or later, when it was proven, over and over again, to be uncompetitive.

    They had all they needed on Feb 19th, 2022. Except the person or people responsible for this design accepting that real-world data is infinitely more valuable than potentially-bad sim data.

  3. Electroball76
    18th March 2023, 15:05

    There’s an old saying in Texas:
    “Fool me once, shame on.
    Shame on you.
    Fool me — you can’t get fooled again”

  4. It’s exactly what I predicted last year. Brazil was no victory for the concept but the other teams dropped the ball that weekend.
    Mercedes was so eager to believe their own tale they thought they won by merit.
    Now it hurts and it will hurt for some time. If they are serious with the budget it’s not possible to “repair” this ugly car

  5. @seth-space That’s the bit I don’t get. Peter Windsor pointed out that Red Bull messed up the ride height in Brazil and with the sprint race parc fermé had no chance to correct, hence the relatively good weekend for Mercedes.
    But surely Mercedes should have known that too? I realize there were other signs of apparent improvement but Interlagos seems to have swayed them too much.

  6. At a certain stage we came to the conclusion we got it wrong

    That’s a big open question left there, ‘at a certain stage’. Months ago? Two weeks ago?

    1. That’s not the big question. The big question is WHY they got it wrong if the data was indicating that they were on a good path. If they don’t solve that problem, they may have problems with any concept/direction they choose.

      1. @André:
        Seems like AT have the same problem. Engineers looking at data vs. looking at a stopwatch at the track.

      2. I didn’t say ‘the’ big question! You’re right, the lack of correspondence between virtual data and real track performance may be the biggest question, but then again the obsession with solving it (proving the data right?) seems to have cost them time. What I meant was when exactly, then, did Mercedes decided they couldn’t keep trying to prove the data was right and decide to take another direction? What puzzles me are the stories some time ago (not really reported much here) about a new sidepod design that was intended for Baku, led by Mercedes own remarks in the media. Plus the way Wolff describes it, the decision might not have been that reason (post-Bahrain) – like they already knew from testing.

  7. Them believing they got better throughout the season is a mistake in itself.

    Came Abu Dhabi and they were in no man’s land, exactly like it was in Bahrain.

    The only thing they got sorted out was the bouncing.

  8. Car’s alright, get a competent driver

    1. Lol. So a 7 time world champion who has been in title fights more than any other driver on the grid is the problem? Your reasoning does not reflect reality, history or the facts. Sorry.

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