Why Toto Wolff is not concerned as Mercedes beaten by engine customer

Thomas Maher
McLaren's Lando Norris races Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

McLaren's Lando Norris races Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton at the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2023.

For the first time in the hybrid engine era, Mercedes are not necessarily the quickest F1 team powered by their own engine.

Mercedes may occupy second in the 2023 Constructors’ Championship, but the Brackley-based team have only occasionally been the actual second-quickest team during a Grand Prix weekend.

Instead, behind Red Bull, it has usually been the case that Aston Martin have looked the fastest Mercedes-powered car while, at Silverstone, it was the turn of the surprisingly resurgent McLarens as Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri secured a second and third place grid slot before racing to second and fourth places – the double podium only going begging due to a Safety Car intervention.

Toto Wolff unconcerned by Mercedes customer pace

While the Mercedes F1 team have been the unquestionable fastest team running the engines developed by the manufacturer at their facility in Brixworth since the start of the hybrid era in 2014, this year is the first time where their customer teams appear to have their measure.

With both Aston Martin and McLaren joining the fight for the ‘best of the rest’ position behind Red Bull, Wolff denied that he is irritated by the fact that customer teams appear to have the measure of the W14 with the same engine.

“No, it’s making me very proud,” he told media, including PlanetF1.com, after the British Grand Prix.

“Because this is a very power unit-sensitive track and the Mercedes engines performed really well with six in the top 10.”

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Instead, Wolff pointed to the fact that the engine performance is not in question, given how well others are doing, and said McLaren’s surge to the front shows that teams can make huge progress with their current cars given the right approach and upgrades.

“Yeah, I think we are keeping there in second position and whomever has performances, track specific or through an upgrade, we’re able to just stay there at least,” he said.

“Now we have the resurgence of McLaren who were not competitive at the beginning of the year.

“It’s good to see because that means, if you’re taking the right decisions with your car, your car can jump up by a huge amount.

“On the other side, I don’t know what happened to Aston Martin and Ferrari, they made a step backwards.

“But overall, I think this result is no more than solid.

“I’m happy for Lewis [Hamilton’s] podium and both drivers drove to the maximum of the car. So P3 and P5 is okay, but [it’s] no more than solid.”

Toto Wolff: Mercedes, Aston Martin, and Ferrari all ‘a tight bunch’

While the W14 has made strides since the start of the season, eclipsed by the apparent leap forward from McLaren, Mercedes have been open and honest about their second offering for the ground effect regulations failing to match their expectations.

Reflecting back to the start of the year, Wolff said he believes no team has truly figured out the regulations as comprehensively as Red Bull, and that teams like his are all squabbling over the same gains from the same position of understanding.

“I think these cars are just very different in the way you develop them and you look at them, than any previous regulations,” he said on Friday.

“It’s not trivial at all to develop the tools and assess them in the right way, to have the quickest car. And I believe that only one team has gotten that right so far, and obviously, they carry that advantage with them. They are not stopping.

“And all of us behind: Ferrari, Aston Martin, and us – and you can see sometimes Alpine – we are all in a very tight bunch.

“I believe, if everybody runs the same tyre in that previous session [FP1], we’re all within a tenth or two. So it shows they’re tricky. And it continues to be an interesting journey.

“But at the end of the day, it’s mega: we need to break the run of a team that is the benchmark at the moment on merit, good engineering, and a very good driver. Then we’ve just got to go there. None of us has another choice than to catch up.”

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