Mercedes vow ‘to get under control’ Red Bull Verstappen dominance
By Ian Parkes
Tuesday 13th June, 2023 - 5:04am
Toto Wolff feels Mercedes now has the opportunity in its hands “to get under control” the dominance of Red Bull and Max Verstappen.
After trying and failing with what Wolff now states was a misinterpretation of the new aerodynamic regulations that were introduced at the start of last season, Mercedes has opted for an altogether different development path.
A new front suspension, sidepods, and most pertinently, floor, were introduced at the Monaco Grand Prix, although Mercedes had to wait for the more representative race in Spain to truly appreciate whether the route taken was the correct one.
Following the performance around Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, where Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished second and third, with the former still 24 seconds behind Verstappen, Wolff claims there is now “a solid baseline” from which to work.
Unfortunately for Wolff, his drivers, and the team, the path Mercedes now finds itself on could not have been discovered sooner.
“We had to work through this because we had to also discover that the direction we’ve gone just simply didn’t work,” he said.
“We are a team of people, who won eight consecutive championships, that got it wrong last year.
“We tried to find out what it was we didn’t understand, and things got better towards the end of the season.
“Regulations were changed, which we misinterpreted, and here we go – start from zero.
“So the learning is tremendously important, and also going forward, I think this will be part of the continuous journey of this team.
“And my perspective is not one season, my perspective is 10 or 20 seasons and this is going to be that learning – as painful as it is, as annoying as it is – these days feel like they are absolutely necessary to establish a sustainable basis.”
Now Mercedes is headed in the right direction, as to how quickly the team can catch Red Bull is not one Wolff can respond to but at least his engineers and aerodynamicists “can seek performance and downforce”.
“I would love to give you an answer but I simply don’t know,” said Wolff.
“I think Verstappen is just on a different level – and it pisses me off to say that but that is the reality.
“It’s a meritocracy, they (Red Bull) have just done the best job, the driver’s driving excellent, and they’re just far away.
“That is something which only we have in our hands to get under control.”
Although Mercedes’ more bulbous sidepods caught the eye in Monaco, with the team veering away from its original ‘zero sidepod’ design, Wolff maintains the core for future progress remains the floor.
That was viewed in Monaco when Lewis Hamilton crashed in final practice, with images taken of its underneath when it was hoisted high into the air.
“These cars generate most of the downforce through the floor, not through the engine cover,” said Wolff.
“But we wanted to take factors out of the equation, and that meant clearly returning to a more conventional sidepod and engine cover. At least we don’t need to discuss that anymore.”
Wolff has warned, however, that this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix will be a more difficult proposition for his team than Barcelona.
“With its long straights and low-speed corners, it’s not a track that we expect to suit our car as well as Barcelona did,” he confirmed.
“No matter where the true pace of the car is this weekend, we will aim to maximise our result.
“The characteristics of the circuit will also provide further opportunity to learn about the W14 and feed into our development path.”