Wolff claims lack of downforce hurting Mercedes

Toto Wolff believes Mercedes has a lack of downforce in its 2023 F1 car

Toto Wolff believes Mercedes has a lack of downforce in its 2023 F1 car

A lack of downforce is believed to be the underlying limitation at Mercedes according to team boss Toto Wolff.

Lewis Hamilton was the best-placed of the silver arrows drivers in fifth place in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix, two spots up on team-mate George Russell.

More worrying was that Hamilton was over 50 seconds behind race winner Max Verstappen, while the Mercedes-powered Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso was more than 10 seconds up the road in third.

Design questions raised

Across the week of pre-season testing and into the opening round of the season there were suggestions out of the once-all-conquering operation that there were doubts about its car.

That started with technical director Mike Elliot who admitted he wasn’t totally sold on the ‘zeropod’ solution, and then by Wolff himself after qualifying who suggested the whole car concept was wrong.

If that’s the case, the team faces a significant problem given the new season has just started and the sport now operates within cost cap regulations.

No quick fix

The rules introduced last year mean it is not possible to simply spend your way out of a problem.

It means any solution to the W14s woes is likely going to have to use the W14 as its basis.

“That’s a good question,” Wolff admitted when he was asked ‘what’s next?’ following Sunday’s race.

“We will tackle that straight at the beginning of the week because where we are is… when you look at where we were at the end of the season, where it seems like we caught up a lot, it was just a matter of which circuit suited us and which not.

“I think we’ve almost doubled if not tripled [the deficit] to get to Red Bull,” he added.

“This is what we need to look at. Everything in between, the Ferraris, the Astons, that’s just a sideshow.”

Aston Martin has proved the revelation of the season thus far after making significant ground since the end of 2022.

The team caught the eye of many in pre-season and drove that point home on Sunday with a strong podium result for the Silverstone-based squad.

“What Martin [Whitmarsh Group CEO of Aston Martin Performance Technologies, the body which overarches the F1 team] was able to achieve, he’s a good inspiration because they can come back from two seconds off the pace to be the second quickest team, probably, on the read,” Wolff said.

“And with us… everything’s bad.

“Maybe the single lap was still good but in the race we saw the consequences.

“To put it bluntly just we were lacking downforce, and when you’re lacking downforce you’re sliding the tyres, and sliding the tyres is going backwards.”

Formula 1 heads next to Jeddah for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, a very different style of circuit to the Bahrain International Circuit, on March 17-19.

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