Revealed: The biggest challenge facing Mercedes heading into F1 2024

Jamie Woodhouse
Mercedes W13 nose cone with rain drops

Mercedes will unveil the W15 at Silverstone.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff believes “setting the expectations right” is the key F1 2024 challenge, as they go up against the mighty Red Bull team.

Mercedes once more found the title scene off limits last season, as Red Bull posted a remarkable 21 grand prix victories out of a possible 22 in F1 2023.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz inflicted the only defeat in Singapore, meaning Mercedes went winless across a full F1 season for the first time since 2011.

Mercedes feel progress but has ‘huge mountain to climb’

But, as eight-time Constructors’ champions, Mercedes can never be counted out and will return to action with their sights set on adding to that tally in F1 2024, Wolff having teased a “more conventional” approach for their W15 with unique innovations sprinkled in.

Wolff is under no illusions though regarding the size of the task at hand, so managing expectations in that respect poses the biggest challenge to Mercedes for the new season.

“It’s a) to set the expectations right because we have a huge mountain to climb,” said Wolff in a Mercedes Q&A when asked what the biggest challenge faced by the team is ahead of F1 2024.

“There’s a team that is so successful and we have a big gap to close. At the same time, I believe we’ve taken some proactive steps to close that gap. Is it going to be good enough? I don’t know. But we’re going to see it in testing and then in the first race in Bahrain.

“I’m super excited. I’d like to start going now. It’s the stopwatch that’s going to tell us what job we’ve done.”

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Mercedes certainly went through a great deal of learning on the job in a difficult early part of the F1 2023 campaign, one which saw them quickly decide that they needed to ditch their unique ‘zero-pod’ philosophy.

And Wolff said their biggest lesson learned was that the W14 lacked the stability they had anticipated, its operating window proving very difficult to nail.

“During the year, we realised that our car was not operating in as stable a manner as we had predicted,” said Wolff.

“That is perhaps because we didn’t develop it in the necessary window. It was clear that the interaction between chassis and tyres didn’t work perfectly. So, in that respect, this was the most important learning.”

Asked if Mercedes’ F1 2023 learnings exceeded those of 2022, the first year under F1’s ground effect regulations, Wolff replied: “I wouldn’t say lots more.

“It’s a constant learning process and next year, and in the years to come, there will be situations where we say ‘well, we didn’t spot that.’

“That was also true during the last 10 years where we won eight championships. You’ve just got to constantly learn and develop. That’s a mindset we’ve always had.”

The F1 2024 campaign is set to be contested across a record 24 rounds, starting with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 2.

Read next – Toto Wolff exclusive: Huge Mercedes W15 design insight with ‘all sails set’ for 2024

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