Toto Wolff makes bold Mercedes claim after slow start to F1 2023 testing

The Mercedes chief is confident the team can recover from their slow start to testing and compete for the F1 title this year

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Despite finishing almost seven tenths off the pace set by Max Verstappen on day one of Formula 1 2023 testing, Toto Wolff believes the W14 in the hands of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell is capable of fighting for race wins and championships.

Mercedes are looking to bounce back from a tough 2022 campaign that saw them pick up just one race victory, while Hamilton also saw his streak of registering at least one win per season in F1 come to an end.

Wolff was keen to temper expectations when the 2023 challenger was unveiled, adding that the team would be willing to ditch the ‘zero-sidepod’ design philosophy if required, but insists he has already seen enough from the W14 to inspire confidence.

“You need to provide a good car for a driver that has the ambition to win races and championships and we have that,” Wolff said.

“We want to win. At this stage last year, we knew we were in trouble because the car was bouncing around and we were not able to drive it correctly.

“But today, it is very different. The car seems to be balanced in the right way. There is no bouncing which is good news. It is a good starting point.”

George Russell could only manage ninth on day one of the 2023 Bahrain Pre-Season Test | Jiri Krenek/Mercedes

‘I am amazed by Lewis’

After losing the 2021 world championship decider on controversial circumstances, there was talk that Hamilton could walk away from the sport.

However, after a social media blackout, he announced he would be returning and was in a bullish mood when he arrived at the same testing juncture 12 months ago, only for the W13 to be blighted by porpoising and a lack of straight-line speed.

It led to the Brit’s least successful season since arriving on the F1 scene in 2007. Having experienced the many ups and downs of the sport, Wolff admits he continues to be impressed by the 38-year-old’s attitude.

“I am amazed because Lewis has been with the team for 10 years and every year he just come backs more mature, more professional and more understanding of what is good for him,” Wolff added.

“He is in high spirits and super-determined.”

The 2023 Formula 1 season kicks off with the Bahrain Grand Prix from March 3-5.

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