Toto Wolff delivers grim assessment for Mercedes at Spanish Grand Prix

Mark Scott
Mercedes F1 co-owners Toto Wolff and Jim Ratcliffe in discussion at the Monaco Grand Prix. Monte Carlo, May 2023.

Toto Wolff and Jim Ratcliffe in discussion at the Monaco Grand Prix. Monte Carlo, May 2023.

If you are clinging onto some hope that Mercedes’ new upgrades will suddenly spark into life in Barcelona this weekend, Toto Wolff has dismissed that idea.

Mercedes’ latest attempts to claw back the huge deficit to Red Bull and re-establish themselves as title challengers saw them introduce what is effectively a B-spec W14 at the Monaco Grand Prix.

The ditching of the zero-pod philosophy was the most notable change spotted on the streets of Monte Carlo, but a new floor and major suspension changes were also part of the substantial package.

Although the unique, tight and twisty Monaco circuit is not the ideal place to introduce new upgrades and not a particularly strong track for Mercedes anyway, it did give them a new baseline to work with after finally pressing the reset button on their car design.

The next stop on the F1 calendar is the Circuit de Catalunya, a circuit that for many years was the ideal location to test F1 cars before Bahrain became the sole pre-season host.

With a more traditional race track to unleash the W14 on, it did come with some hope that Mercedes could suddenly spark into life this weekend and narrow the gap to Red Bull.

Wolff, though, does not think that is a realistic scenario.

“Well I like that the track now has a balls-out last corner,” Wolff told Channel 4 in Monaco, referencing the recent removal of the final chicane at the Circuit de Catalunya.

“But we need to see whether it is going to be a good race [still] because some of the junior series are still struggling with overtaking there and couldn’t get close.

“For us, this [race] is a data collection exercise. We’re not going to be racing for World Championships so it’s really just about running [the car].”

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Wolff was also eager to keep a lid on expectations around the radical Mercedes W14 upgrades, not giving the media any indication that the proverbial ‘silver bullet’ has been found.

“We don’t really know [what we have learned about the upgrades so far,” Wolff said.

“I think we’ve learned what we put on the car still makes the car go straight. It could have been much worse.

“So that’s a good first solid step and then we got to take it from there.”

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell continue to do their best with a bad situation, combining together for 119 points after six races so far this season, enough to put Mercedes P3 in the Constructors’ Championship and just one point behind customer team Aston Martin.