Toto Wolff identifies ‘big problem’ at Mercedes ahead of 2024 changes

Oliver Harden
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton flashes past in final practice at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton flashes past in final practice at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

Toto Wolff has revealed Mercedes will be working on fixing their car’s rear instability ahead of the F1 2024 season, admitting the wayward rear end has become a “big problem” for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

Having won a record eight Constructors’ titles from the beginning of F1’s V6 hybrid era in 2014, Mercedes have been restricted to just one grand prix victory since the ground effect regulations were introduced last year.

Mercedes entered 2023 aiming to return to title contention, but were forced to redesign their W14 car after an alarming display at the season opener in Bahrain and have made only limited progress since a heavily revised chassis – featuring a more conventional sidepod layout – arrived in Monaco at the end of May.

Mercedes intending to fix unstable rear for F1 2024 fightback

Despite their limited improvement over the course of this season, Mercedes remain hopeful of challenging Max Verstappen’s dominant Red Bull team next year with more big changes promised.

Wolff has vowed that chief among those will be a solution to the rear-end instability plaguing the W14, which has hurt the confidence of Hamilton and Russell on turn in.

He told Austrian publication oe24: “Our car has, to put it in a nutshell, a big problem: it breaks out at the back, the drivers have no confidence when turning in. They need a car with which they can push again and not one with which they have to fear flying off in every corner.”

During a demoralising weekend in Japan last month, Hamilton called for a “change in philosophy” at Mercedes with the team requiring “the greatest six months of development we’ve ever had” to close the gap to Red Bull in time for the start of next season.

Wolff agrees with Hamilton’s assessment, adding: “That’s exactly what we tell ourselves every day: the development curve has to be steeper than ever. We are stepping on the gas like this.

“Only if we are able to put our car on a much better basis, we will race in front. Because Red Bull is so far ahead, we are totally changing our car concept.”

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Claims have been rife that Red Bull commenced work on their 2024 car some time ago, with an unhappy Hamilton arguing for governing body the FIA to come up with a start date each year for teams to start development work on the following year’s car.

Wolff is wary that Red Bull will be looking to extend their existing advantage next season, with Mercedes taking a similar stance during their own dominant period.

Asked if Red Bull have been working on next year’s RB20 for “a long time”, Wolff said: “Absolutely. I know this from the years when we were so far ahead: You can start development even earlier.

“If the regulations don’t change, it’s even harder to catch up. But we are only giving up one letter.”

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