Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff firmly rallied against the idea that they must wait until the 2026 regulatory reset to challenge for titles again, the “clear objective” set to do so before then.
Mercedes were the unstoppable force of the V6 turbo-hybrid era, winning eight Constructors’ Championship titles in a row between 2014-21, plus seven Drivers’ titles in that time.
Now it is Red Bull setting the standard though, F1 2023 proving to be a new benchmark for dominance as the team won 21 of the 22 grands prix, 19 of those going the way of Max Verstappen.
Mercedes not hitting pause on F1 title ambitions
The pairing of Verstappen and Red Bull is one that is going to take some serious stopping, and with the regulations stable until an overhaul for 2026, the idea that the Dutchman could continue to dominate until then is very realistic.
However, it is not one which Wolff is subscribing to, the one-third Mercedes team owner making it clear he does not believe they definitely have to wait until 2026 for a fresh taste of title glory.
“I don’t want to give up on the recovery and say, ‘well, let’s wait for 2026, new car, new engine,'” he told Motorsport.com.
“There is two more important years to go. I want to see it as a testament for the strengths of the team that we are capable to recover and race for championships. That’s our clear objective.”
Despite the refusal to accept that Mercedes must wait until 2026 to challenge for titles again, Wolff accepted that the odds are probably not in their favour, arguing the key is to create a challenger that gives the drivers confidence when driving it, which was not achieved with the W14.
Nonetheless, Aston Martin’s surge over the winter heading into F1 2023, plus McLaren’s extremely successful upgrade programme for the MCL60, showed it is still very much possible to unlock a large chunk of performance.
“Looking at the odds, very difficult,” Wolff admitted.
“Looking at performances of other teams, how Aston Martin has done over the winter, McLaren recovered a second with an upgrade they expected to come in at 0.25 seconds…There is a sweet spot that you need to find and that unlocks more potential.
“I think the biggest contributor is that the drivers start to have a car that they can trust, which they can’t at the moment.”
Both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are committed to the Mercedes recovery charge, the driver duo signing new deals during F1 2023 to keep them with the team until the end of 2025.