Mercedes facing "Mount Everest", admits Wolff


Fearing that Red Bull will continue to dominate next season, Toto Wolff admits that his team is already under intense pressure as it seeks to radically change the concept of the Mercedes.

Speaking in the wake of Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Hamilton was asked if he thought Mercedes would be in a position to go head to head with Red Bull next season.

"At this moment I don't really know," he admitted. "For Red Bull to win by 17 seconds in the end, and they haven't even developed their car since August, is definitely a concern."

His view is shared by his boss, Toto Wolff, for while its total domination this season allowed Red Bull the luxury of stopping development of the RB19 in order to focus on its successor, Mercedes is also facing the prospect of a radical overhaul of its car concept having got it so spectacularly wrong this year.

"Red Bull started these regulations in 2022 with a massive advantage and have been able to retain it," said the Austrian, referring to the rules overhaul of last season.

"We need to have a lot of respect for their achievement," he continued, "in the engineering side and the driver, and beating them under the current regulations is against the odds, that's clear."

Having made it clear throughout 2023 that moving forward his team will have to return to the drawing board, Wolff takes inspiration from McLaren, which started the season with a dog of a car but by season end was regularly challenging for podiums.

"We have seen with McLaren an update unlocked a second of lap time and with AlphaTauri coming strong at the end and Aston Martin over the winter, there is a key to unlock dramatically more performance," he said.

"I think us making this honest assessment that this car is never going to be good enough to fight for the championship, and we have taken the decision in Spring that we have got to go back to the drawing board and come up with something new next year. But Mount Everest is in front of us," he admitted.

Nonetheless, despite realising as early as pre-season testing that it had gone the wrong way, Mercedes too managed to turn things around and finished the year runner-up to its Austrian rival, albeit 450 points adrift.

Asked if this gives him reason to feel optimistic moving forward, Wolff said: "I have never felt optimistic about anything in my life. That makes it sound miserable, but it has protected me about managing my expectations and pushing harder, because I think it is never good enough.

"That's why today I sit here with a bittersweet feeling that we have won P2 but lost P1. So we are changing the concept, we are completely moving away from how we laid out the chassis, the weight distribution, the airflow, I mean literally there is almost every component that has been changed because only by doing that do we have a chance.

"We could get it wrong also, so between not gaining what we expect to catching up, making a big step and competing at the front, everything is possible.

"If you ask me today, there is always scepticism, but that is the mentality in the team that pushes us forward to never give up."

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Published: 01/12/2023
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