Toto Wolff’s latest W15 admission with ‘bigger factor’ emerging after Jeddah disappointment

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton puts in the laps

Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes W15.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff alarmingly claims the W15 struggling in high-speed goes beyond rear wing setup, with their downforce calculations not matching what happens on the track.

After engine overheating issued had hamstrung Mercedes in the Bahrain F1 2024 season opener, the hope was for much better at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, though that did not come to pass for the eight-time Constructors’ champions.

Mercedes W15 downforce struggles ‘a biggie’

The W15 has been exposed as a challenger lacking downforce and therefore pace through high-speed corners, a weakness which cost them in Saudi Arabia as George Russell managed only P6 and Lewis Hamilton P9.

And speaking to media after the race, Wolff knocked back the suggestion that Mercedes’ rear wing being too skinny was the source of their problems, stressing that there is a bigger issue at play here which, worryingly, they do not yet understand.

“I think there’s a bigger factor with the lack in high speed than just a rear wing,” said Wolff. “We’re missing downforce beyond the steps that you will have with a bigger rear wing.

“We tried it on Lewis. There’s something which we don’t understand because we are quick everywhere else pretty much. We know that we have a smaller rear wing, we’re compensating what we’re losing through the corners, but it’s just the high-speed where we’re losing all the lap time.” recommends

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Could Mercedes instead then be dealing with a simple setup issue elsewhere on the W15? Wolff does not believe so.

A major issue for the team with their initial and unsuccessful concept in Formula 1’s ground effect era was that while they could see the performance in the virtual world, it was difficult to ensure that translated onto the track.

And Wolff’s thinking on these high-speed struggles carries similarities, as Mercedes’ downforce measurements are not correlating with what happens on the track.

“No, I think that’s a biggie,” Wolff stressed. “There’s only so much you can tune here.

“Our simulations point us in a direction and this is the kind of setup range that we then choose, we put the right rear wing on and I think you gain a few tenths or not if you get the setup right or wrong, but it’s not a massive corridor of performance.

“It’s a more fundamental thing that we believe that the speed should be there and we measure the downforce, but we don’t find it on the lap time.”

Mercedes sit P4 in the early F1 2024 Constructors’ standings.

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