Mercedes ‘on right trajectory’ but prepared for setbacks – Wolff
By Ian Parkes
Thursday 20th April, 2023 - 7:19pm
Toto Wolff is confident Mercedes is now finally on the right trajectory this season but has no doubt there will be setbacks along the way.
There was initial despair within the team following the launch on track of the W14 in pre-season testing and after the initial qualifying session of the campaign in Bahrain.
The feeling at the time was that Mercedes would have to ultimately adopt a different approach with a car in which seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton has since complained lacks the comfort of rear-end stability.
Since the disappointment of the first race in Bahrain, Mercedes has made considerable steps forward with development, with upgrades planned as it seeks to close the gap on early runaway leaders Red Bull.
Making no bones about the fact the season has “been difficult so far”, team principal Wolff added: “With the way we developed the car, we were hopeful of sorting out our issues from last year.
“But we realised we weren’t coming out of the blocks where we expected to be.
“Having said that, we don’t feel any sense of entitlement. This is the toughest competition in the world, and it wouldn’t be such a fantastic challenge if it was easy.
“Three races into the season, I think we saw that one team is setting the benchmark now.
“In Australia, though, we saw glimpses of performance in our car that encourage us for the next part of the season.”
Mercedes “to stay rational”
Expanding on the positives, Wolff said: “In terms of car development, it is encouraging to see that within three races, we understand the car much better, we have defined a clear direction where we need to go and I believe we are on the right trajectory.
“We need to consolidate our understanding and, hopefully, over the next few races we can make another step.
“It’s also important to keep on track and not oscillate too much between exuberance and depression, to stay rational and believe in our trajectory, believe in the capability of the team.
“There will be setbacks but there will also be upgrades and plenty of work that will help us get closer to the front.”
Mercedes need “steeper development curve” compared to Red Bull
Mercedes was at least closer to Red Bull in Australia than the previous two races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
George Russell and Hamilton managed to qualify second and third, and even had the beating of Max Verstappen off the line and through the first few corners to run one-two for the opening few laps.
Circumstances ultimately led to Russell losing the lead, however, whilst the pace of the RB19 with its DRS open allowed the reigning champion to breeze past Hamilton and ultimately go on to score his second victory of the season.
Ahead of F1’s return to action in Azerbaijan next weekend following a spring break, Mercedes is already 67 points behind Red Bull in the constructors’ standings but with the belief the gap can be closed.
“We understand the knowledge that we need to recover,” said Wolff.
“We need to have a steeper development curve than Red Bull and fundamentally, we want to compete for race wins. They are setting the benchmark now.
“We trust in the process and in the people, and there will be setbacks. But if the trajectory is up, that’s where we want to be heading.
“We will consistently be bringing upgrades to the car over the next few races, which is something to look forward to.
“But there is no such thing as a magic bullet that transforms the car, and it’s about being realistic with your expectations.
“Hopefully, we will see a steady improvement.”
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