Toto Wolff has said Mercedes have been holding back performance in the W14 during the first two days of Formula 1 pre-season testing ahead of the 2023 F1 campaign, which kicks off on March 3 with the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The eight-time world champions are looking to recover from a relatively dismal 2022, in which they won just one race and finished third in the constructors’ championship, but have so far failed to make much of an impression on the timesheets.
“We’re still hiding a little bit,” Wolff told Sky F1’s Rachel Brookes. “Very difficult to judge at this stage.
“Everybody is playing around with fuel loads and hiding on engine modes, so you can’t really judge.
“I think you have to wait for the three days’ running and wait for the soft tyres to come on in the afternoon, which is more representative of the conditions in Bahrain.”
Worryingly for the Brackley-based outfit, Red Bull and Max Verstappen appear set to be the class of the field again, with the Mercedes chief acknowledging their early strength.
In contrast, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished 13th and 15th of 17 runners on day two of testing.
However, Wolff insists he is still optimistic for the season ahead, especially now that the porpoising that plagued the W13 looks to be a thing of the past.
“A feeling of excitement,” Wolff added, when asked for his thoughts on the upcoming season. “We got it wrong last year and finished third and we definitely want to fight for the world championship, that’s the aim, but you need to stay humble as well.
“Mentally it was difficult to start with a car that was not on par last year so hopefully we’ll see something that is better and that’s where the excitement comes from.
“But equally we want to get it right.”
Hamilton: ‘It was a difficult morning”
The morning session proved troublesome for Hamilton, who was seen regularly lighting up his rear tyres in the middle of corners, as the W14 once again proved a difficult car to tame.
He did, however, manage 72 laps, even though his fastest time was good enough only for 15th, more than two seconds off the ultimate pace.
“It was a difficult morning,” the 38-year-old admitted. “The hot temperatures made it challenging with the tyres overheating, as we often see here in Bahrain.
“We got through our run plan though, and it was good to get that mileage in.
“Everyone is working incredibly hard, staying focused, and we’re discovering everything we can about the W14. We’ve got lots of work planned for the final day of pre-season testing tomorrow.”