Toto Wolff thinks pole position for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November would represent a good recovery from Mercedes’ troublesome start to the 2023 Formula 1 season.
After being restricted to just a single victory in 2022, Mercedes had hoped to return to title-winning contention with the W14 car this season but were shocked to be six tenths off pole at the opening round in Bahrain.
That result forced Wolff to admit the team had pursued the wrong development path for 2023 and order sweeping changes to the car, with technical mastermind James Allison brought back to the frontline.
Mercedes are expected to field a heavily revised car at this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola in what is likely to be seen as the first significant step in the eight-time Constructors Champions’ recovery.
With the 2023 titles almost certain to go to Red Bull, winners of each of the first five races, Mercedes face a fight with Ferrari and customer team Aston Martin to be classed as the best of the rest.
From their lacklustre starting point in Bahrain, Wolff would settle for a car capable of challenging for pole and the win in Abu Dhabi at the conclusion of the 2023 campaign.
According to the Spanish version of Motorsport.com, he told DAZN: “If I could close my eyes and open them, I would like to be on pole position in Abu Dhabi and compete for the win.
“I would say that [through] ups and downs, for eight years, we have been the most competitive and we have won the Championships.
“Last season was a difficult start and although we have put in good performances, even been on the podium, they have been very difficult days.
“Many ups and downs, but also a lot of learning.”
Mercedes had to wait until the penultimate round of last season to finally register a win, narrowly avoiding a first winless campaign since 2012.
That victory was taken by George Russell in Brazil – but it has since been suggested that it actually misled Mercedes into persevering with the zero-pod concept for 2023 after Red Bull struggled to find a workable setup in the limited practice running available ahead of the sprint race at Interlagos, handicapping Max Verstappen for the remainder of the weekend.
Verstappen finished a disappointing sixth in Brazil but was back on form at the season finale the following weekend in Abu Dhabi, winning from pole as Russell (fifth) and team-mate Lewis Hamilton (DNF) struggled.