Revealed: Toto Wolff’s unflattering Mercedes W15 nickname amid ‘lost our way’ admission

Oliver Harden
Toto Wolff looks intense at night with a prominent Mercedes logo alongside him

Toto Wolff hopes to avoid another 18 months of misery

Toto Wolff has described the Mercedes W15 as the best of a bad bunch after the disappointments of 2022/23, admitting the team have “lost our way” in F1 over recent years.

Having been restricted to just a single race win since F1’s ground effect regulations were introduced in 2022, Mercedes were hoping to return to regular victory contention in 2024 with the new-look W15 car.

Mercedes W15 receives unflattering nickname from Toto Wolff

However, the team are yet to register a podium finish after three races of the new campaign, with Mercedes failing to score a point in a race for the first time since June 2021 at last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix as both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell retired.

The W15’s lacklustre performance comes after technical director Allison claimed over the winter that Mercedes were aiming to be “in with a shout” of winning both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championships after establishing a “pretty ambitious program” with the 2024 car.

In a frank admission, Wolff – who memorably christened the team’s 2017 chassis a “diva” after an inconsistent start to that season – has described the W15 as “the best of the bad” cars Mercedes have produced since F1’s 2022 rule changes.

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And he has revealed that it’s shortcomings are similar to those of its immediate predecessors.

He told Fox Sports Australia: “It’s a little bit the same since two years.

“I think this one is the best of the bad [bunch], so it’s a better platform to work on, but it’s still not a car that a driver feels really good about throwing into the corner at 200mph.

“We introduced new regulations two years ago, which are not so new anymore, and we are struggling.

“We won eight times in a row, but you can’t count on that.

“It’s been more difficult years and Red Bull is very much at the top and then it’s a gang of Ferrari, McLaren and maybe ourselves.”

Having overseen a record run of eight consecutive Constructors’ titles from the start of F1’s V6 hybrid era in 2014, Wolff has been left flabbergasted by Mercedes’ inability to recapture their former glories under the current rules despite sweeping car concept changes.

And he has acknowledged that it will take some time for the team to re-emerge as a front-running force.

He explained: “I think we lost our way at the beginning of ’22, because all our tools and systems gave us cars that were winning Championships every single year and then the new regulations were very much around the ground effect.

“We came out with a car that showed all the promise in the data and in the wind tunnel, but we didn’t deliver.

“Since then we’ve changed everything – from the layout, the suspension, the driver’s position, the gearbox – but it seems that we haven’t solved the fundamental issues at the core.

“I’m looking at it with a very long-term perspective.

“I’m part of the team as a co-shareholder and I want to look back in 10 or 20 years and say: ‘There’s been many more Championships that we won.’

“But you need to be realistic about what you can achieve in a single week and we are not where we want to be.

“We’ve just got to dig deep, put our head down and continue to work and add performance and eventually be more competitive, but it’s a doubt that it’s going to happen tomorrow.”

Wolff’s comments come after Martin Brundle, the Sky F1 co-commentator, described the W15 as the most difficult car to drive on the entire 2024 grid, suggesting the team principal’s patience is close to running out.

Writing in his Sky Sports column following the Australian GP, he said: “When I was out on track on Friday it appeared to me that Lewis Hamilton’s Merc was perhaps the most difficult to drive.

“Through the high-speed chicane which makes up Turns 1 and 2, the car was all over the place.

“For the third consecutive season, they haven’t hit the sweet spot with this era of ground-effect cars, and then can’t seem to contain the unpredictability of performance thereafter.

“Team boss Toto Wolff always has elegant words and phrases to move the story on and refocus for the next race or season, but it must be wearing very thin for him to see the lack of progress.”

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