Mercedes F1 staff departures leaves team with difficult rejuvenation task

Jamie Woodhouse
Mercedes driver George Russell lapping the Las Vegas circuit.

George Russell in action driving the Mercedes W14.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is confident that a “rejuvenation” mission will get the team back on the right path, following the string of high-profile staff exits.

After stumbling out of the blocks for the new Formula 1 era of ground effect aerodynamics, Mercedes set out to make 2022 a mere blip and return to their familiar position of challenging for and winning titles.

However, that did not come to pass, with Red Bull only further strengthening their dominance in F1 2023.

Toto Wolff talks “rejuvenating” Mercedes team

Red Bull won a remarkable 21 of the 22 grands prix, Max Verstappen claiming 19 of those with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz the only non-Red Bull winner of the season as he took the chequered flag in Singapore.

Mercedes were at least able to beat Ferrari to a distant P2 in the Constructors’ Championship, though it was only of minor consolation to the eight-time Constructors’ champions.

“We won P2 today, but it reminds you that you lost P1,” said Wolff on the F1 Nation podcast following the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“It gives us satisfaction today about the outcome of the weekend because that was the target and it’s important also for taking these emotions into the offseason.

“But nevertheless, P2 sounds good, but there’s another team and another guy that won 19 races.”

Mercedes has lost a great deal of firepower from the dream team behind their record-breaking dominant run, including design guru Aldo Costa, engine boss Andy Cowell, chief strategist James Vowles, chief technical officer Mike Elliott and their late great non-executive chairman Nika Lauda.

It was put to Wolff by 1996 World Champion Damon Hill that change is painful but needed to move forward, Wolff expressing his confidence in “rejuvenating” the Mercedes juggernaut to rise once more to those glory days.

“There is no sports team that has won eight consecutive World titles and for me it’s been a psychological journey,” said Wolff.

“Because you have a great group of people on this mission together and you grow and you develop, but at the end, are you the same person that you’ve been at the beginning of 2013? Maybe not. But maybe you’re wiser, maybe you have more experience?

“And I think getting that balance right, for us, that’s the really difficult task. And we’re going to come back that’s for sure, it’s just maybe rejuvenating and recreating the successful organisation.” recommends

F1 team principals: How long has each team boss been in charge?

Five big rule changes the FIA introduced to reel in dominant F1 teams

Put to Wolff that Mercedes appear a “very methodical team”, he was asked whether they instead need to find their “attacking nature” and go with the “kick up the butt” approach to return to the top.

Wolff believes that both the emotional and logical thinking sides are there within Mercedes, with the right balance needed to make a success of their mission to reel Red Bull back in.

“When you look at our record since 2013, we’ve finished second, first, first, first, first, first, first, first, first, third, second, so you look back in 20 years and you look at that and say that was respectable,” Wolff stated.

“You also look back and you look at the Red Bull years where they finished fourth or third and that happened a lot of times in the last 10 years, and you’ve just got to get the balance right between keeping that mindset of rational, logical, data-driven work and on the other side the emotion and the eagerness.

“And I think we had both of that. Simplified, we just got the physics wrong. It’s not mystical, it’s physics that we got wrong. We got out of the blocks in a bad way with new regulations, Red Bull on the contrary, they’ve done it well and now we’re playing a little bit of catch-up.”

F1 2023 marked the first season where Mercedes failed to score a victory since 2011.

Read next: ‘Prime Lewis Hamilton’ admission leaves David Coulthard searching for answers