George Russell, Mercedes, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023

Mercedes making “bigger gains than we have for a long time” with car development

2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Mercedes are making faster progress in developing their 2023 car having accepted they needed a change of concept, says team principal Toto Wolff.

The team realised it needed to change tack with its development following the uncompetitive start to its 2023 season in Bahrain.

Having persisted with a novel interpretation of F1’s latest technical regulations throughout last season and into the beginning of this year, Wolff says the team is “storming full steam ahead now and changing things” with its W14.

Although the team enjoyed a slightly more competitive weekend in Jeddah, where George Russell qualified within six tenths of a second of pole winner Sergio Perez, Wolff said that hasn’t led the team to doubt its decision to revise its design philosophy.

“That doesn’t make it a millimetre better,” said Wolff. “I think that we are always looking at the benchmark performance and that is [Max] Verstappen and Perez, and it’s just too far away. So that hasn’t changed the gap. I think if Max would have finished qualifying, it would have been even bigger. We have seen it on the long runs, too.”

The team’s performance in “single sessions, single qualifying or even a single race” won’t deflect it from its chosen course, said Wolff. “My state of mind hasn’t changed a millimetre just because we are P3 in qualifying. The difference is that the trajectory is set now.”

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The development path they have chosen is already delivering “big steps in relative performance to where we are even now”, said Wolff.

Race start, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023
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“The kind of gains that are coming in our [research and development] and in aero are much bigger than we’ve had over a long time. We’ve unlocked some potential because we simply look at things from a different angle now.

“We have a different perspective because of our learnings of the Bahrain test and Bahrain race. So there was no step back, on the contrary there was immediately two steps forward.”

However given the time needed to bring the current updates to the track, Wolff is cautious about predicting how competitive the team might be later in the year.

“Is it realistic with today’s performance to even talk about the world championship? No it’s not. You’re a fool if you think that way.

“But equally, it’s motor racing and you must never give up. And I think if you continue to do the big steps that we’ve already done in the last 10 days, then I think we’ll come to a stage where we are really able to race for wins.”

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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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16 comments on “Mercedes making “bigger gains than we have for a long time” with car development”

  1. I am just hoping that Fernando can keep my interest in this season alive until either Merc or Ferrari get their house’s in order.

    Any news like this is good news.

    1. I am with you there. Here’s hoping AM can keep up the pace. Maybe we get one of those great qualifying runs and some results from Lance he pulls out of the bag about once a season as well to spice things up.

      And I haven’t lost hope that either Hamilton, Russel or Leclerc can give us a race or two where they find a sweetspot.

      1. Sorry @bascb tapped report by accident instead of reply. Would add Sainz too might as well if we count Stroll

  2. It was quite a shift that the Mercedes just drove away from the Ferraris in the race, that seems to leave Mercedes catching Aston with the same concept. Then the drivers, and reliability…

    1. True, but still no where near red bull. Best merc can hope for this season with current concept is 2nd.

  3. Mercedes could’ve had all this in late Feb 2022.

    If not for a person or group of people choosing to ignore real-world data.

    1. @proesterchen And failing to listen to their drivers.

  4. I’m really not understanding Mercedes in this new iteration. They persist with the design over the winter and then suddenly abandon it after one race, yet already said before the season start they had a major new sidepod design programmed for Baku that would be like ‘nothing else on the grid,’ including their own current design. Now Wolff and Russell are sounding positive about the rapid gains being made in their design – back at the factory. So is that the Baku sidepod design or something else? And why does everything seem completely back to front and confused? It’s like they actually decided to reinvent in January/February. But why not say so, admit they went in the wrong direction over winter and realized very soon in the new year, as McLaren basically did?
    Oh well, I’ll guess we’ll find out how much of this is real – and how much this is another false dawn for them – over the next few races.

    1. The impression from all of this is that they were asleep at the switch. In what looks like a follow-up on the approach they took last year …… Yes there is a problem, we are collecting data, lots of data, this is pointing us in the right direction and we will fix it next year. Does this sound familiar.?
      The really fascinating part is going to be watching how the “new car” process gets completed within the Budget Cap. Really looking forward to that.

      1. @rekibsn I’m wondering how they get the ‘new’ car in under budget too.

        1. Multiple teams had very big sidepod change last year so overall shouldn’t be a problem for budget cap.

        2. Maybe that is where the answer lies though @david-br. Maybe Mercedes just weren’t able to put that development into place in 2022 because they had already spent too much of their aero and financial budget to optimize their flawed package over the winter before

    2. @david-br – they have a contingency plan, if the concept they tried to get right last year really is terrible move to plan b. They are progressing with plan b/different concept what ever term they want to use. For their sakes I hope it delivers what they think it will this time.

      1. @icarby Having a contingency plan sounds totally plausible. What I don’t understand is they way they’ve gone about implementing it, particularly the public relations side.

  5. Yes, no, left, right, up, down. No consistency in any messaging. Hope its not a reflection of their internal situation.

    1. Yeah. Sounds more like shareholder power move than technicality.

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