Sao Paulo the ‘perfect storm’ for keeping Mercedes down current concept route

Sam Cooper
George Russell celebrates. Sao Paulo, November 2022.

Mercedes' George Russell celebrates after winning the Sprint race. Sao Paulo, November 2022.

Toto Wolff suggested the one-two achieved at the 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix was actually a curse in disguise in regards to the team’s direction.

The most frustrating season in Wolff’s Mercedes career ended on an upwards note when George Russell secured the team’s one and only win in Sao Paulo with Lewis Hamilton finishing one spot behind.

Not only did the result boost morale but it seemed to suggest that the Brackley engineers had been proven right with their car concept, which was very different from the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari.

But that turned out not to be the case with Mercedes making no radical changes for their 2023 design and finding the W14, like the W13, had a long list of problems to overcome.

There is now talk of a B-spec car being readied for deployment at Imola and Wolff has admitted the Sao Paulo result was “the perfect storm.”

“It was a Sunday with many flavours,” he told the Italian edition of Motorsport.com. “I was already in Abu Dhabi, and I had a sort of pit wall set up in my hotel room!

PlanetF1.com recommends

Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris in ‘similar’ and ‘frustrating’ positions at Ferrari and McLaren

‘This is not what Red Bull signed Sergio Perez for as Max Verstappen’s team-mate’

Red Bull’s main rivals: The big deficits, the glaring weaknesses and the solutions

“I had the chance to talk to the team, and I could see all the data I could, I was there, on the room table, and it was like being in the race, and in the end it was great. When the chequered flag came I felt really proud, I can’t explain it well, but I think it’s something similar to the feeling of a father who sees his group being able to walk alone.

“In other respects it was a perfect storm. Having improved performance made us believe we were on the right track, the trend was positive, and convinced us that the basic concept was right, just the perfect storm.”

Mercedes have not fully divulged what their upgrades for Imola will be, merely hinting that radical changes were on their way, but Wolff did elaborate a little, stating the “layout” of the W14 will change come the first Italian race of the year.

“I don’t want to change the goals yet,” he said. “I always want to think that we are here to fight for a world championship, even if it doesn’t seem realistic.

“We are only at the beginning, and I want to keep the team motivated to do the best possible job. There are many innovations in the pipeline, the layout of the car will change at Imola and we will see what this step entails.”