Toto Wolff: There is ‘nothing mystical’ about Mercedes’ W13 issues

Michelle Foster
Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff. Zandvoort September 2022.

As Formula 1’s eight-time reigning Constructors’ champions hurtle towards a winless season, Toto Wolff says it would be “foolish” for Mercedes to feel “entitled” to wins.

Mercedes have been the dominant force in Formula 1 the past eight years, the team winning an unprecedented eight Constructors’ crowns as well as seven Drivers’ titles.

They lost that one last season to Max Verstappen but didn’t go down without a fight, the championship decided on the very last lap of the season.

This year a very different story has unfolded at Mercedes.

The Brackley squad has struggled in the new ground effect aerodynamic era, the W13 bouncing more than any other car in the first half of the season.

The team managed to resolve that, or best to say minimise it, only to find fundamental issues with the car that they have been working on ever since.

Technical director Mike Elliot likened it to an onion, “you peel the next layer off the onion and you’ve got another problem.”

Those problems could see Mercedes finish this season without a win on the board, it would be their first zero since 2011.

They have just four races to avoid that fate.

“We are third on the road,” motorsport boss Wolff told Channel 4. “It’s not misery, it’s still respectable because we could have come out further back.

“But now we just need to sort it out and we are eager to be part of the very front, fighting for race wins, fighting for the championship.

“There is no sense of entitlement for us to win every single championship because that would be foolish.”

Mercedes driver George Russel at Eau Rouge. Spa August 2022.

Mercedes are third in the standings with 387 points, 67 behind Ferrari with 191 still in play.

“Realistically,” he added, “and we have talked about it the last few years, every series ends one day.

“There is no team that is winning every single world championship over its lifetime, and that has happened.

“And it has happened because we got the physics wrong. There is nothing mystical about it suddenly.

“We have great people, equipment, infrastructure, financial resource, and what we got wrong was just how the car works.

“In a way, this gives us the confidence to sort it out again.”

Will the 2023 floor changes help or hinder Mercedes?

Next season Formula 1 is tweaking the floors, the FIA pushing through the changes as they fear over the off-season the teams will find more downforce and with the new generation of cars that means more porpoising.

So they’ve taken steps to limit that.

The edge of the cars’ floors will be raised by 15mm, the FIA initially wanting a 25mm increase, and the diffuser throat height will also be raised. Added to that the floor edges will be stiffened to combat bouncing.

By raising the floor edges and the diffuser threat, which is the narrowest point in the venturi tunnel in the underfloor, downforce will be decreased. That’s across the board for all 10 teams.

But doing that could hurt Mercedes more than other teams as this year, between the design of their sidepods and the floor, they have struggled to maximise downforce except when running the W13 at a very low ride height.

Mercedes, it has been suggested, may be forced to scrap their zero-pods and adopt something closer to the Red Bull design if they want to get back to winning ways.

Speaking in late September trackside engineering director Andy Shovlin admitted they are “still exploring different concepts“, but agreed that today the Red Bull option does appear to be the best.

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