Toto Wolff’s glass ‘half-empty’ as Mercedes face steep 2023 slope

Jamie Woodhouse
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton is chased by a Red Bull. Mexico October 2022

Lewis Hamilton is chased by a Red Bull. Mexico October 2022

While Toto Wolff expects Mercedes to be a more “potent” threat in 2023, he still looks at the situation with a cautious mindset.

While Mercedes had hopes of adding a ninth successive Constructors’ trophy to their cabinet in 2022, instead they were forced to take a back seat as Red Bull and Ferrari took care of the title battles.

But while Mercedes were certainly wrong-footed by the new regulations, performances like their one-two finish at the penultimate round in Brazil, their only win of the season, showed that the team are on the road to recovery.

However, Wolff is someone who also looks at the risks, and after seeing Red Bull win 17 of the 22 grands prix in 2022, he stresses that it will not be simple for Mercedes to jump back into the title picture.

“I’m always a half-empty glass guy and I see the risks,” said Wolff on the Beyond the Grid podcast.

“And as a matter of fact, if you’re trying to be logical, Red Bull was very dominant throughout the season, they wouldn’t have won 15 races or more, and also towards the end.

“So it’s going to be very difficult to have a development slope that is steeper than theirs and also Ferrari.

“But I believe in the organisation and fundamentally it’s not about a lack of downforce, but it’s about a problem in making the downforce work on the car.

“And I think with our learnings and the values in the team, the empowerment, the no blame culture, I think we will be back in a more potent form next year, hopefully winning races on merit and fighting for a championship. But is it a given? Certainly not.”

Mercedes were plagued by porpoising issues in the early stages of the season, the team unable to chase outright performance while they got on top of this problem.

Wolff suspects that it will be easier for Mercedes to control this phenomenon in their 2023 challenger, the W14.

“We believe that we solved the underlying problem of the bouncing, but not all of that could have been done on the 2022 car,” he said.

“So we believe it’s going to be easier next year. We are changing some of the architecture and the layout of the car, that should point us in the right direction.

“But as it is with these new regulations, sometimes you uncover one problem and then you realise there was another underneath, so we have to be humble and not feel a sense of entitlement that we’re going to get back into this championship and win straight from the get go.”

As Mercedes’ general level of performance improved in 2022, podiums became increasingly common, the team finishing with 17 overall, including that Brazil win.

But alas, it was not the regular victories which Wolff and the team craved.

Asked if the team got used to their finishing positions, Wolff replied: “Yeah, that’s how the brain saves us. We protect ourselves collectively all around the world from our own mediocrity by coping with such a situation.

“And in that respect, you’re starting to see the positives, you’re seeing race pace, that was good, and reliability that was good.

“But at the end, there is no hiding, the stopwatch never lies and you come back whether it is second, third or fourth, you’re just not winning, and that is fundamentally what what we fight for.”

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