Toto Wolff hints at major Mercedes change as Red Bull concept dominates

Thomas Maher
Red Bull RB19, Aston Martin AMR23, Mercedes W14 at the Austrian Grand Prix. Red Bull Ring, July 2023.

Red Bull RB19, Aston Martin AMR23, Mercedes W14 at the Austrian Grand Prix. Red Bull Ring, July 2023.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has said all the “strong” F1 cars may end up converging upon Red Bull’s design path as the regulations mature.

Since the start of the ground effect regulation cycle at the beginning of 2022, Red Bull have dominated the sport with their cooperative and fast RB18 and ’19.

While the start of 2022 saw a number of different concepts brought to the table by different teams, more have sought to move closer to Red Bull’s design philosophy – the most recent being McLaren, who took a major step forward in pace after their Red Bull-esque upgrade package was introduced to the MCL60.

Toto Wolff: The strong cars might look quite similar

With both Aston Martin and McLaren taking significant steps forward in terms of pace in recent months, to the point where the Mercedes customers are bringing the fight to the Mercedes team on track, Wolff downplayed the importance of needing to follow the Red Bull philosophy in order to be competitive at the front.

Mercedes recently made a big concept change to their W14, moving away from the ‘zeropod’ idea that they had persevered with since the beginning of the regulations, only to admit defeat and change direction ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix.

While the W14 appears a more competitive animal in the races since, they have not broken free of the Ferrari/Aston Martin, and now McLaren, battle.

“The sidepods and the bodywork are just one part of the chassis and clearly, it looks like there are interesting solutions that it opens up,” he told media, including PlanetF1.com, after the British Grand Prix, when asked if convergence of design was likely over the next year or two.

“But most of the performance comes through the floor and the diffuser. And we haven’t seen how they [Red Bull] interpreted the regulations, and how they’ve done it. So in my opinion, it’s just the package.”

Wolff hinted that the top cars may all start looking quite similar as time goes by.

“Maybe we’ll see that the strong cars all look a little bit the same when you look from the side and from the top down,” he said.

“That has played in our minds already back in the day but, maybe, that’s just a little more indication where it goes.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

Revealed: The shortest F1 careers this century in the brutal world of Formula 1

Explained: F1’s track limits rules and how the FIA enforces them

McLaren boost ‘exciting’ for Toto Wolff

While Wolff has previously downplayed the ability of his team to find a ‘silver bullet’ that may elevate the W14 into being an RB19 challenger, McLaren’s decision to quietly focus on a concept change with their MCL60 in order to radically overhaul their car earned Wolff’s approval.

With Mercedes power behind the Aston Martins, McLarens and Mercedes cars, the fundamental difference between them is in aerodynamic proficiency, and Wolff said McLaren’s leap has given his team some food for thought.

“I think we’ve seen that major step that Aston Martin were able to bring, and now McLaren,” he said.

“We’ve been fighting with the car for a year and a half, trying to add performance. It came in, but it’s just chipping away at those small gains, rather than to do such a step.

“But I really see the positives because, fundamentally, I don’t care whether we finish second or third. It’s important to find our way back to fighting for victories and in the World Championship.

“While podiums are really happy for us to see that the car has potential, fundamentally all sights are on the big prize and that’s why it’s exciting to see that McLaren was able to find a second in performance.”

Read Next: Carlos Sainz snubs Max Verstappen for Lewis Hamilton in team-mate debate