Toto Wolff explains why Mercedes’ 2022 lows still trump F1 2023 struggles

Jamie Woodhouse
Toto Wolff, Mercedes, showing his serious face. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff showing his serious face. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Mercedes suffered another setback at the start of F1 2023 as they slipped further away from the title scene, but 2022 still stings the most for team boss Toto Wolff.

Regulation changes often bring about alterations in the Formula 1 pecking order, but when one of the biggest rule shifts yet arrived ahead of the 2022 campaign, Mercedes set out to weather the storm having been on a run of eight Constructors’ titles in a row.

It was a mission though which the team were unsuccessful in, as Ferrari and Red Bull established themselves as the leading forces of the 2022 campaign with Mercedes adrift of that scene.

Mercedes ultimately scored one pole position and victory across the season, both courtesy of George Russell who took a first career pole in Hungary and won the Sao Paulo Grand Prix later in the year.

The team’s improving peak performance as the season went on gave hope that F1 2023 would see the Brackley-based squad return to the title picture, but once again the team has faced a setback, with Red Bull now the clear dominant force as Mercedes battle Aston Martin and Ferrari to be known as ‘best of the rest’.

Mercedes’ latest poor start to a campaign drew negative responses from Wolff and the team’s seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who both criticised the concept of the W14, though Wolff maintains that 2022 was the more bitter pill to swallow compared to this start to F1 2023.

Asked by Motorsport.com if Mercedes right now are going through their lowest point since he arrived in 2013, Wolff replied: “No, I think it was more difficult last year.

“In the first tests in Bahrain we believed we were on the right track, then we realised we were not. In the final phase of the season we were competitive again, we were a few tenths off in Abu Dhabi, but in Austin, Mexico and especially Interlagos we did well.

“Twelve months ago we didn’t understand what the problem was, it was a bitter surprise to find ourselves struggling with a car that did not generate performance. Today we have problems, but we know where they are and what they are due to.”

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Mercedes will have been encouraged by their most recent F1 2023 outing at the Australian Grand Prix, that by far their strongest showing of the campaign as Lewis Hamilton picked up the team’s best result of the season so far with a P2 finish.

Russell had been leading in the early stages, but the appearance of the red flags just a few laps after he pitted behind the Safety Car, followed by a power unit failure, saw his victory chances evaporate.

But Mercedes have plenty of time to work on their W14 and come out swinging for when Formula 1 returns with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the end of April.