Toto Wolff admits not understanding early problems ‘cost us the season’

Henry Valantine
Toto Wolff is interviewed. Abu Dhabi November 2022.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff speaks to the media. Abu Dhabi November 2022.

Toto Wolff has admitted the time it took for Mercedes to solve their “fundamental problem” early in 2022 effectively “cost us the season”, as they looked to play catch-up.

The team arrived in Bahrain well behind Ferrari and Red Bull in terms of outright pace, despite thoughts from outside that the eight-time consecutive Constructors’ champions had been ‘sandbagging’ during pre-season testing, to try and hide their true pace.

But the problem the team had with ‘porpoising’, aerodynamic oscillations which caused the cars to bounce as a by-product of the new ground effect aerodynamic regulations in Formula 1, proved to be a big barrier to their progress for the first half of the season.

Mercedes did eventually recover some of the deficit they held to the front two teams as the year progressed, earning a one-two finish with George Russell’s maiden victory in Formula 1 at the penultimate race of the year in Brazil, through a series of upgrades a improvements as the season went by.

But given the need for Mercedes to iron out the bouncing on their W13 before they could focus on improving the outright pace of their car, the team principal and CEO thinks that was the root cause of why they continued to lag behind the front-runners for so long.

“For me personally, it was an interesting journey because obviously, we had a massively successful run of eight consecutive championships and we knew the day would come where it’s going to be difficult,” Wolff said in an end-of-year review video from Mercedes.

“But coming out with not understanding what was happening – and it’s a relative game, some of our competitors understood or seemed to have a high-performing car.

“That was particularly difficult, that it took us so many months to filter out and say, ‘well, this is what the fundamental problem is’, and it cost us the season, in effect.”

Technical director Mike Elliott elaborated on the porpoising issue which plagued Mercedes early on in the season, which he believed saw them “at the worst end” of the spectrum compared to their rivals, with each team affected by the phenomenon in the opening rounds.

With that, however, he was happy with how the team went about their response as the season progressed, particularly given where they started.

“The problems we saw with bouncing I think were there across the grid, but to different extents,” Elliott added.

“And I think the position we found ourselves in at the worst end of that extreme, made life very difficult for us.

“My role starting as a new technical director was not a great position to be in, but I think what’s pleased me is the response to that.

“I think the response of the team, the way the team has stuck together and got on and tried to understand that there’s progress we’ve made is the bit I’m pleased with.

“The position we found ourselves in at the beginning the season, that was really challenging.”

Read more: Mercedes caught off guard as Bahrain package sent porpoising to ‘whole other level’