Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitted the team’s bold set-up call on Lewis Hamilton’s car backfired and cost the seven-time world champion the chance of qualifying higher than sixth for the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix.
Mercedes debuted their highly anticipated upgrade package in Monaco and Hamilton looked more comfortable than teammate George Russell from the off around the streets of the Principality before his late crash in the final practice session.
Ahead of qualifying, though, the team opted to make a late set-up change to try and close the gap to the front, but in the end it did more harm than good, with Hamilton struggling to get out of Q1 and Q2 before salvaging P6.
“Lewis was quick all weekend, obviously in Monaco it’s always difficult to put a lap together but once he got it together we got a purple sector one,” Wolff told select members of the press, including Total-Motorsport.com.
“And then the team with Lewis we decided to take a more bold decision on set-up, because we felt we can play in the front and that backfired and put him on the back foot in qualifying.
“The car never felt really together, we had to take a third tyre in Q2, and therefore the recovery was very good.
“But there was a lot of pressure and so finishing P6 is OK, three tenths of pole is solid in terms of the time gap, but obviously the position is not great.”
Price of cost cap
Despite that setback for Hamilton, Wolff said he was pleased with the highly anticipated upgrade package the team brought to Monte Carlo.
It is quite a departure from the radical ‘zero-sidepod’ design but the Mercedes chief added that if it wasn’t for the cost cap, even bigger changes would have been made in a bid to accelerate a return to the front of the grid.
“I think if we were not in cost cap land, we would have introduced another chassis, which we can’t,” Wolff said.
“But what we did is a fundamental shift in the design direction, the way we generate grip mechanically and aerodynamically.
“So we are very immature in our understanding of the current car and therefore we expect upgrades to come regularly within the financial parameters that exist.
“But everybody should be under the same constraints.
“The car felt together which is important. Still a bit nasty on the rear, so that’s something which we need to dial out of the car over the next few races but we have a new baseline and that’s important.
“We’ve taken questions off the table where we weren’t sure with the front suspension or some of the extravagance of our bodywork so yeah, let’s work from here.
“We’re good at grinding away and the work that was done in the factory is to bring that update to Monaco and Imola before was really a big effort.”