Nico Rosberg highlights the ‘massive job’ facing Mercedes: Small step back for a big one forward

Michelle Foster
Toto Wolff speaking with Matt Deane Mercedes chief mechanic. Saudi Arabia March 2023

While Mercedes have declared it’s time to change their car’s concept, Nico Rosberg says that’s a much bigger job than just slapping new sidepods on the W14.

Fearing their deficit to Red Bull has “doubled if not almost tripled” this season, Toto Wolff has admitted the time has come for Mercedes to make changes to the car’s concept.

“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.”

Adding that while the team “really tried hard to make it work”, he now says he doesn’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.”

But changing the car’s concept is about more than putting Red Bull sidepods on the car, it involves “re-evaluate the whole thing”, says Rosberg.

“It’s an incredibly difficult time as we’re seeing,” the former Mercedes driver told Sky Sports F1.

“But it seems from what he says now, he said it’s a dead end and we’ve now got to make that change, so it seems that they’ve committed to this change, which is incredibly hard to do.

“First you do a little step back to then have more potential in the medium term to really go in a big step forward.

“It seems that’s kind of the decision that they’ve taken so it’s going to be interesting what they come up with with the different concept.”

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But as the 2016 F1 champ pointed out, “you can’t just change the sidepods – ‘Oh, let’s go with the sidepod a little bit more in Red Bull direction’ – because then the rest of the car doesn’t fit anymore.

“It starts from the front and you kind of need to re-evaluate the whole thing which is a massive job.”

‘Aston Martin’s jump has inspired Mercedes’

Rosberg reckons watching Aston Martin improve by two seconds a lap in six months, the progress that Wolff pointed out in Bahrain, has inspired Mercedes to revamp their concept.

The car Aston Martin put on the grid at the very first race last season was not the car they finished the championship with, the team introducing a B-spec Red Bull-esque car at the Spanish Grand Prix.

This year’s AMR23 has continued with that trend and bears a notable resemblance to the title-winning Red Bull RB18.

“I would say it’s the Aston Martin jump that has helped Mercedes in this decision,” said Rosberg, “because if some other team with lesser competencies, I would still say, is able to make such a giant jump by following the Red Bull concept then imagine the jump we can make with our ability.

“And also I’m sure that’s something that’s really helped Mercedes to make this decision.”

Backs Mike Elliott to get it right for Mercedes

The German also threw his support behind beleaguered technical director Mike Elliott following fellow former driver Ralf Schumacher’s comments that keeping him in his role could be “problematic” given his support for the current concept.

According to Rosberg, Elliott is the one who came up with the car that saw Mercedes take the titles from Red Bull in 2014 so he sees no reason why the Briton cannot do it again.

“Toto’s strength was always people management and succession planning,” he said. “And when I look now at who the leaders within the team are starting with Mike Elliott, who’s the technical director.

“He’s extremely competent, he was the person who turned around the aerodynamics in my time in Mercedes and made the aerodynamics department the best in F1 suddenly after years of Red Bull domination.

“It’s the new new generation now running Mercedes and they’re extremely competent. So I don’t think it’s down to this brain drain that some people kind of mentioned.”