‘Mercedes didn’t suddenly take a stupid pill, we got the W13’s concept wrong’

Michelle Foster
The Mercedes W13 of George Russell sporting a tribute logo. Belgium, August 2022.

The Mercedes W13 of George Russell sporting a tribute logo to celebrate 55 years of AMG. Belgium, August 2022.

Toto Wolff says after eight years of winning the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes didn’t “suddenly take a stupid pill” when designing the W13, they simply “got it wrong”.

Having lost the Drivers’ title to Max Verstappen, Mercedes were keen on regaining their dominance with the introduction of 2022’s all-new technical regulations. Instead they’ve found themselves without either title for the first time since 2013.

The team’s 2022 car, the W13, has been described as everything from a “diva” to an “onion” such were its layers of problems, porpoising at the forefront of the list.

But even after that was minimised, the team still had to peel away one issue after another, Mercedes making the most progress of any team in the latter part of the championship.

It wasn’t enough to see them fight for the championship titles, the team only breaking their victory duck at the penultimate race of the season when George Russell won in Sao Paulo.

“We got it wrong,” Wolff admitted on the Beyond The Grid Podcast. “I think even the best people can get it wrong.

“My assumption of why a team would function, that I learned back in the Williams days, is that you have to have the right infrastructure, financial resource, good drivers, powerful engine, the right organisation and enough time to put it all together.

“These ingredients would make sure that you are competitive. Now winning can be something else or winning a championship is a different thing.

“But we haven’t suddenly taken a stupid pill, winning the Constructor’ Championship last December and then in March being nowhere is very easy. We got the concept wrong.

“We underestimated the effect when running the car very low, and others have done a better job whether they knew the effect from past days or they were simply more focused on this particular area of car behaviour. I don’t know.

“But in the organisation nobody is shy to say that we’ve done a bad job here. Very easy. There is no hiding, no seeking for explanation how we ended up there. I mean, all of us are saying we got this very wrong and others got it very right.”

The zero-pods were not the problem

It was thought early in the season that Mercedes’ radical sidepod design – the team sheering away the sidepods with a concept that was dubbed the ‘zero-pod’ – was responsible for their porpoising problems.

Given the sidepods lacked in structure, it was suggested it meant there wasn’t much to keep the floor stiff thus leading to their extreme porpoising.

Wolff has refuted this, saying he is in fact “proud” of the zero-pods.

“I’m proud by the boldness that we put into this new car,” he said.

“When you look at the narrow sidepod concept, which had absolutely nothing to do with the car not performing, I’m proud of how we came about in finding the design and putting it on the car.

“And then there is many other areas that were really good.

“A power unit that has really done us well throughout the season and reliability was great too.

“And also on the chassis side. I think we had a high peak downforce, we just couldn’t run the car where we would be able to generate that.”

Wolff denies budget cap hampered Mercedes’ recovery

It has been suggestion that the budget cap hampered Mercedes’ ability to recover.

In years gone by a team with their financial clout could have thrown money at the problem whereas this year they were limited to $140m plus the inflationary increase.

Wolff, however, insists they still had the know-how and the tools for the job, it just took them a while to fix it.

“No,” he replied when asked about the budget cap’s impact, “it wouldn’t have made a difference because we’re not lacking the capability or any of the tools. Nor time.

“It was more that we needed to peel off layer by layer in order to get to the ground of the problem. So it wouldn’t have changed anything.”

Read more: Mercedes reveal first signs of W13 problems came on pre-season filming day