Toto Wolff hopes that his Mercedes team will have fun in 2023 and compete for both Formula 1 championships against their opposition.
Mercedes enters the 2023 season seeking a return to form following a disappointing 2023 campaign for the Brackley team.
Compared to 13 wins in the reduced season of 2020, and 10 wins in 2021, the 2022 car claimed only a solitary victory in Brazil – mild success when stacked against their standards and rivals.
Red Bull won 17 of the 22 races with Ferrari enjoying a return to winning form, claiming the remaining 4. Mercedes would go on to finish 244 points behind Red Bull, and 39 points behind Ferrari.
“Any new season that we start, our hopes and expectations are obviously to be able to fight for a World Championship,” Wolff told selected members of the press including Total-Motorsport.com
“Now if you can actually win against this formidable competition is a different note. Our aim is to be right there and race to have some fun.”
Fixing the Mercedes
Plagued by porpoising and producing a high amount of drag, the W13 lacked the straight-line speed that her predecessors were known for possessing.
So, whilst the 2022 car was fast in the corners, it was unable to compete against the Red Bull and Ferrari packages in a straight line.
Even in the Japanese Grand Prix, Esteban Ocon’s Alpine tended to pull away from the Mercedes on the run down to the 130R corner as Hamilton sought a way past.
The Mercedes also suffered in qualifying, with tyre warm-up difficulties meaning that the team sometimes struggled to get into Q2 or had to use more sets of soft tyres in qualifying, leaving them short strategic options in the races.
“2022 was difficult here but with lots of learning,” said Wolff. “And in 2023, I hope will prove that we have understood how to unravel the problems and how to improve the package of the car.”
This was witnessed at the United States GP in Austin, when a slow-stop for Max Verstappen saw Lewis Hamilton inherit the lead of the race.
The Dutchman fitted medium tyres and would go on to catch his 2021 rival with a handful of laps left – in part, because Mercedes used extra softs in qualifying leaving them with the slower hard compound as their only option left.
Whilst the power-unit itself may not have been ‘bad’ per say, possessing excellent reliability and decent power as evidenced by the Williams team, Mercedes are said to have re-designed the rear-suspension on their W13 and shredded the weight.
The aim is improve performance and performance efficiency as Mercedes sometimes had to over-commit to downforce levels in order to off-set the time lost to their already-draggy car on the straights.
The Mercedes team principal has not been shy to hide that a reason for their 2023 challenger’s ‘back in black’ look is to save weight.
Whilst it enables the car to reach closer to the minimum threshold of 798kg, the livery also honours the history of the team and the social activism of the team.
Mercedes famously re-painted their W11 car black ahead of the 2020 season as a statement of support for Hamilton and the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd in the United States.
“So the W14 has gone back to a black livery, but in this case it’s not only to support the diversity and equality cause, which is close to our heart,” added Wolff.
“But also because we needed to save some weight. And if you remember, the story of the Silver Arrows was the car that was painted white but it was too heavy.”
“It was eventually aluminium and this is how they achieved the weight. And in our case, we just did the same as we were overweight last year.”
Mercedes team coming together
Wolff has been particularly vocal of his pride as Mercedes came together across Brackley and Brixworth to fix the problems of their W13 car.
“When we realised that it wasn’t going to be good, I think that we just mobilised every reserve we had, and that never stopped,” the Mercedes boss added.
“I see that there’s so much effort and motivation and energy in the organisation to launch a car that will eventually be good enough and competitive to fight at the very front end.”
The Austrian has praised his drivers for their willingness to help the team and their feedback with their engineers as Mercedes looked to reel in their faster rivals in 2022.
The team closed the gap to both, but whilst they managed to close up significantly to Ferrari, Red Bull managed to remain elusive except at the Brazilian GP.
Neither driver was happy with how the car turned out, and both called for the need to improve the package.
George Russell, joining in the place of Valterri Bottas, was expecting to inherit a car that would fight for titles and likewise with his teammate who is chasing a record-breaking eight championship.
“How the two of them [Hamilton and Russell] work together with the engineers in order to improve the car was really amazing.” Wolff said, praising their motivation and desire.