Given a choice between winning one of the last two races of this season or beating Ferrari to second in the championship, Toto Wolff wants that win.
Nearing the end of a season in which Red Bull have dominated, Ferrari have blundered and Mercedes have bounced, the latter is still chasing their first win of the campaign.
There have been signs of promise of late, Lewis Hamilton taking up the role of Max Verstappen’s main challenger at both the United States and Mexican races.
His challenge in the latter, though, fell away when Mercedes opted for a medium-hard tyre strategy, Hamilton unable to keep pace with Verstappen’s soft-medium.
“In our simulations, it looked like the best chance,” Wolff said as per the Dutch edition of Motorsport.com. “Well, that’s a bit bitter. But we’ll try.
“The most important thing is that we continue to develop the car for next year.”
Admitting he felt “frustrated” over the loss, he added: “We’ve come such a long way and now we’re here.
“We’re going for the win, we’re going for the podium with both cars, the Ferraris are behind us.
“So you have to stay humble and be aware of what we’re achieving while we’re still reaching for the stars.”
A race win or P2 in the championship?
That reach has seen Mercedes close the gap to Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship to 40 points with 103 still available as Brazil includes a sprint race.
Taking 27 points off the Scuderia in Mexico alone, Mercedes could sweep ahead if they can achieve back-to-back strong results in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Asked if he’d prefer a win or P2 in the standings, Wolff simply replied: “A win!”
The team boss explained that a “win would be proof that our car is back in the fight” while P2 could “also be because others dropped the ball and you are scoring more points.”
That doesn’t mean he’s not keen on the runner-up spot in the Championship.
While Red Bull have already been declared the Championship winners, wrapping up the Constructors’ title in Austin, P2 for Mercedes would “definitely be a consolation because Ferrari had the fastest car at the beginning of the season.
“Finishing in front of them would be great.
“But like I said, that’s not our main priority. The main priority is to understand the car and have a fast car out there.”
Will Mercedes be in the 2023 title fight?
While Red Bull and Ferrari have called time on developing their 2022 cars, Mercedes are still pushing on with upgrades.
They brought lighter parts to the United States Grand Prix and raced their much-talked-about new front wing in Mexico.
Wolff seems happy with the team’s development path.
“I think we’re making good progress on the car,” said the Austrian. “Some of the things we’re finding could be bigger steps than just adding a few notches of downforce.
“But we’re giving everything we’ve got and then some to get us back in position to fight for the championship.”
Next season, barring a few tweaks to the floors to minimise porpoising, the technical regulations are largely the same as this year’s meaning today’s lessons will pay off tomorrow.
Mercedes have slowly but surely been peeling off the layers of their “onion” car, resolving each issue as they discover it.
With the progress they have made since the summer break, it’s hard to imagine the team not being involved in next year’s title fight.