Toto Wolff: Mercedes will be competitive, we just don’t know when…

Thomas Maher
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton at the W14 shakedown, Silverstone, February 2023.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton at the W14 shakedown, Silverstone, February 2023.

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff is confident his team will have the pace to compete this season but hinted it may not be immediate at the first race.

Having slipped from the pedestal of Formula 1 in 2022, with the troublesome W13 failing to challenge Red Bull for the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes launched their 2023 W14 earlier this week.

Having had the winter to apply the learnings from a season’s worth of data in the new ground-effect era, the aim of Mercedes is to bounce back strongly with the new machine.

On launch day, Mercedes issued a press release to the media detailing their feelings ahead of 2023, with team boss Toto Wolff releasing a statement that slipped in a single word of tremendous weight.

“The entire organisation was pushing flat out last year,” Wolff said.

“When we realised that the car wasn’t where we wanted it to be, we mobilised every reserve we had. That never stopped throughout the season.

“We are now getting ready to start the next season. I see so much effort, motivation, and energy in the organisation to launch a car that will eventually be competitive enough to fight at the very front of the grid.”

What did Toto Wolff mean by ‘eventually’?

Of course, the use of such a word in a pre-season press release was always likely to intrigue journalists, with Wolff asked about his meaning as he spoke to media, including PlanetF1.com, later on launch day.

He revealed his belief that the W14 will be competitive, but didn’t want to talk up their chances too much ahead of the early part of a long 23-race season.

“I was contemplating about that word for 15 minutes when we talked about the press release,” he commented.

“Because, on one side, you want to say we will be competitive. On the other side, you need to stay humble and realistic so you could be saying, ‘I hope that we will be competitive’.

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“[The midway house is], we will be competitive. We just don’t know when. Eventually. I think we are on the slope that we wanted to be in terms of our performance. But then you don’t know where the other ones are.

“Humility is most important, we always try to be humble. Especially after last year, we need to remind ourselves we were quite far off for a long time in the season.”

How Toto Wolff compartmentalised Mercedes’ toppling

Having won every Constructors’ Championship since the start of the hybrid era in 2014, Mercedes were able to come to terms with being knocked from the top perch from quite an early point in 2022 as Red Bull and Ferrari streaked clear.

Asked for how he and Mercedes prepared for the inevitable as the season plodded on with only a late-season resurgence as consolation for the team, Wolff said it was always a question of when, and not if, it happened.

“We talked about it for every single year when we were successful that, eventually, we were gonna have a difficult one,” he explained.

“There is no sports team in the world that has won every single competition they participated in.

“So that moment has come last year. And it was difficult because it was just not a race that went wrong, it was a whole season or the whole at least first half of the season. So it was about really living to our own standards, staying motivated, not blaming anyone in the organisation, but sticking our heads together and trying to work workers out of the dilemma.

“That’s something that showed the strengths of the team and our values and mindset. Hopefully, that can be a good, continuous base for our growth.”