Mercedes ‘were proven wrong’ with W14 car concept but are ‘still analysing’ why

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton aerial 44 Mercedes W14 sidepods. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Lewis Hamilton aerial 44 Mercedes W14 sidepods. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Toto Wolff acknowledges Mercedes “got it wrong” with their car’s concept, but they still don’t know why their data and simulations led them astray.

While many of this year’s cars bear a resemblance towards another on the grid, the Mercedes W14 stands apart with its zero-pod concept.

The car is an evolution of last year’s W13, Lewis Hamilton saying it is in fact “pretty much the same” car, it’s just incorporated the floor tweaks that were mandated ahead of the new season in a bid to minimise porpoising.

That, though, is where George Russell reckons they may have taken a wrong step, the Briton surmising they “probably haven’t captured that in the way others have, we overlooked this and we’re not where we want to be.”

But for whatever reason the W14 isn’t performing as Mercedes had hoped, Wolff says they tried hard to make it work but now it’s time to consider other options.

“I think we’d really tried hard to make it work, because the data that we have extrapolated showed us that this works,” the Mercedes team boss admitted. “And we were proven wrong, very simply.

“And you can see that the two quickest cars, including the Ferraris – the three quickest cars – that have a similar concept of how they generate performance, and it’s very different to ours.

“At a certain stage we came to the conclusion, we got this wrong. Simply, we got it wrong. Why we got it wrong, we’re still analysing because we follow data and we followed what simulations tell us, in that case we were misguided by those data.

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“All of us involved in the decision-making process came to the conclusion well, 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.”

Introducing a new concept, though, comes at a price at a time when Formula 1 is operating under a budget cap.

Asked about his team’s goals given the position they’re in, Wolff replied: “I’d like to win every race starting Sunday but that’s not realistic.

“The goals are that based on the understanding that we have now, that over the next iterations of updates and learning, we can shave off a lot of performance deficit because now we know and now we have all taken a decision in which direction to go.”

Wolff accepting of Hamilton’s ‘tough love’ post-Bahrain criticism

Rather uncharacteristically for Hamilton, the Briton vented to the Chequered Flag podcast after the season-opening race saying he “told them the issues that are with the car.

“And I think it’s really about accountability, it’s about owning up and saying ‘yeah, you know what, we didn’t listen to you, it’s not where it needs to be and we’ve got to work’.”

Quizzed about those comments on Thursday, the seven-time World Champion admitted that “in hindsight, I think looking back [it] wasn’t necessarily the best choice of words.”

Wolff, however, says he understands where it was coming from.

“Well, we speak all the time, but it’s not a single word that matters in the team because we know each other so well,” Wolff said. “We know there are emotions at play with him, with me, with many others in the team.

“We wear our hearts on our sleeves, and sometimes you say things that in the media being very quickly translated in a controversial way or polarising, which, inside of the team, never cause any waves because we know that the emotions can run high.

“And to be honest, if I’m watching a lap time deficit, a coming together or a race that doesn’t go well, I’d also like to say that I’m not happy where the team, where the car has been developed to.

“But that’s okay inside of the team, we want the emotion high and we have tough love, we are saying it straight out when it’s missing and nobody’s ever going to… not take it on the chin in the team.”