Mercedes is struggling to get its 2022 car running the way it is intended to, team principal Toto Wolff admits.
After winning eight consecutive constructors’ championships, Mercedes has been on the back foot during the opening races despite introducing a radically updated car at the final pre-season test.
The unique sidepod design turned heads but so far the team has been well off the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari, and Wolff said the car can’t be lowered to its intended ride-height due to issues with porpoising.
“We are not running the car where we are wanting to run it, therefore it is very difficult to really assess what the lap time deficit is if we were able to run a car lower,” Wolff said. “I would very much hope that the gap is much closer to what we’ve seen [in Saudi Arabia], but there are deficits everywhere.”
The opening two races have brought thrilling battles between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc – who have taken one win apiece – and while Wolff recognizes that the fight between Red Bull and Ferrari is good for Formula 1, he admitted it’s difficult for Mercedes to be watching from the outside.
“We had the luxury of being right in those fun games for the last eight years,” he said. “‘Luxury’ is the wrong word – we were right in the middle of those fun games at the front. I’m talking as an F1 stakeholder and benefiting from a great show that is really spectacular to look at. But on the other side, it is extremely painful to not be part of those fun games and with quite a chunk (of) lap time deficit.
“We’re not going to rest until we’re back in the mix. But you’re absolutely right, it’s no fun at all to… It’s an exercise in humility and it’s going to make us stronger at the end, even though it’s not fun right now.”
While unhappy with his own team’s current performance, Wolff said that it’s impossible to miss the positive impact that the newly-introduced technical regulations have made to the sport.
“I think they have achieved what they wanted to achieve – spectacular racing, good overtaking,” he said. “The grid has been shaken up – this is less fun for us – but it happened.
“The midfield is extremely close, so overall from the entertainment factor, I’m happy about the hype around F1, they have achieved the target. You can only applaud to how that all came in.”