Toto Wolff concedes Mercedes were on the ‘wrong trajectory’ from as early as October 2021

Sam Cooper
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Yas Marina, November 2022.

Mercedes' Toto Wolff at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Yas Marina, November 2022.

Toto Wolff believes Mercedes were on the “wrong trajectory” from as early as October 2021 as they look to rebuild from a disastrous 2022.

The Silver Arrows begin the new year with hope that 2023 will provide them far better fortune than what they were given last season.

The W13 proved the most difficult car in Mercedes’ recent history, with major problems only showing up for the first time during winter testing, giving the team minimal time to correct them and putting them well behind both Ferrari and Red Bull.

But the problems had been built into the car long before that first run out in Barcelona and team principal Wolff believes the issue that would prevent them from challenging for the World Championship was conceived as early as October 2021.

“I remember that we were discussing it in October, how exciting it was to find performance through the floor. And the real trick was ‘how low can we actually get the car?’ I guess that sends us off to the wrong trajectory,” he said, discussing the issue in Mercedes’ end-of-season debrief video.

Technical director Mike Elliott said similar and that the team were enjoying some “fairly normal development” before running into “major problems.”

“I guess fairly normal development over the winter, it felt good,” Elliott recalled. “To then sort of roll into winter testing and to find some fairly major problems with the car was pretty dispiriting.

“I think in the aerodynamics, these cars are such that they want to run really low to the ground and I think what we were finding in the tunnel was huge gains with the car operating in that way.

“I think when you look back at the season in hindsight, we pushed too hard in that direction. I think we’ve learned a lot as a result of that.”

Elliott also elaborated on the particular difficulty of the porpoising issue as it caught them by surprise. The problem did not show up in any of their tests in the wind tunnel and it was only once the car hit the track that the issues became apparent.

The 48-year-old said this was the first season he can remember where they were hit with a problem they did not anticipate.

“Any normal season up to now, you’ve been able to look at what comes out of the power unit, what comes out of the wind tunnel and also have our simulation and know where you’re going to be with the car.

“Normally we start the season with a pretty good understanding of where our performance is going, relative to the previous goal. Obviously, you don’t know what the competitors are going to do but you know where you’re going to be.

“And I think this is the first season I can remember in a long time where we started with a problem we didn’t predict.”

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