Formula 1 Racing

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

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2022

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…

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