Toto Wolff finding the positives in McLaren beating Mercedes at Silverstone

Thomas Maher
McLaren driver Lando Norris racing Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. Silverstone, F1 July 2023.

McLaren's Lando Norris racing Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.

Toto Wolff has said there’s grounds for excitement about Mercedes’ performance in the future, after watching McLaren take a big leap forward.

Mercedes were only the second-quickest Merc-powered team during the British Grand Prix weekend, with customers McLaren proving the sensation of the weekend as their upgraded MCL60 proved its mettle.

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri qualified second and third, and looked set for the same positions in the race – only an ill-timed Safety Car ended up costing Piastri a chance of third place in the closing stages.

Toto Wolff: It’s exciting to see McLaren bounce back

Having seen McLaren take such a significant leap forward with their MCL60, having had a terrible start to the year, Toto Wolff said their rise is proof that any team can make the leap forward if the right ingredients are put in place.

“Why it is exciting to see the McLaren bounce back is that you can, within a season, OK, fair enough, they had much more wind tunnel time [but], in any case, come with upgrades that completely changed the performance of the car,” he told media, including PlanetF1.com, on Sunday after the Grand Prix.

“We’re not speaking about two-tenths up and down, but we’re speaking a second and that’s good for the sport that you can do the right things, you put one and one together, and then, we’ve seen it with the Aston Martin from year to year, we’ve seen it in with the McLaren now during the year – I like it.”

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But Wolff admitted that such a leap isn’t likely to come from Mercedes any time soon, due to being a victim of their own success in terms of where they fall on the sliding scale of the Aerodynamic Testing Regulations.

“I think we are restricted by the cost cap and the relative less amount in wind tunnel and CFD time that McLaren was able to have,” he said.

“They finished further back in the championship, they were fifth or sixth mid-year, so they carry over that more wind tunnel time allocation. That’s why it’s kind of difficult.

“Do I believe that we have upgrades in there that fundamentally change the car? I don’t believe so.

“But we have a few small steps that are to come and you can see that, if you find a tenth or two or three, it puts you in a different position on the grid.

“I think if we would have not been stuck behind [Charles] Leclerc [in the early stages], who knows where we would have been on the medium? But yeah, I think we can do that step.”

How wind-tunnel time has an effect on performance

Asked whether the extra wind-tunnel time McLaren have enjoyed is the main reason for their differing rate of progress through upgrades, Wolff denied he had meant it’s the sole reason for the contrast.

“I didn’t want to refer at all that the reasons for performance is in the more wind tunnel time, I think it’s just good engineering, good decisions put well together on the right track,” he said.

“We need to see whether they can repeat that performance in Budapest, which is obviously the opposite in what you need. But this sport is about marginal gains.

“If you have 20% more wind tunnel time allocation, we gain two seconds over a year, which means four-tenths.

“So, if you have that four-tenths or five-tenths in additional performance, that’s always going to help but still, you need to have the right innovation, design and put it on the car and it needs to correlate with the tunnel and the simulation. So, you know, chapeau!”

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