Toto Wolff says Mercedes still doesn’t understand its 2022 car but admits that a team of its size and resource should be on top of it by now.
Mercedes opted for a sidepod design that is a clear departure from the rest of the field, and has struggled with its car’s performance throughout the season so far. While progress appeared to be being made from the Spanish Grand Prix onwards, Mercedes still sees its competitiveness fluctuate wildly, securing pole position in Hungary but then being nearly two seconds off the pace in Belgium.
“It’s very difficult to cope with these swings,” Wolff said. “We had a totally sub-par performance (in qualifying at Spa) – being beaten by the Alpines, [Alex] Albon very strong, Valtteri [Bottas] would have been right there, [Lando] Norris probably – and then in the race at times we were three seconds a lap faster. Big question marks about what’s going on.
“It’s not where we should be, we have the structure and the knowledge to understand a racing car but we don’t with this one.”
With the Mercedes concept so different from the rest of the field, Wolff says talks have already been held about whether to continue trying to exploit its potential or switch strategy for 2023.
“It’s a very difficult situation because we obviously have a certain concept of a car and it’s not like that we can experiment a lot this year and simply dial stuff out and test. So whatever we decide for next year needs to be carefully evaluated, because clearly our data doesn’t give us the results, doesn’t correlate with the reality.
“We’ve got massive swings of performance that we can’t really get on top of, so in this very moment to take a decision for next year, whatever it may be, changing the concept dramatically, how can you be sure that that’s the better direction to go because clearly we would be starting a little bit far back?
“Now, that’s going to be part of the decisions – because the discussions we already had – and the decision’s in the upcoming few weeks of what we want to do about it.”
Despite the struggles in Belgium, Wolff says the peaks of performance give him confidence that Mercedes can still fight for wins at some venues this year and wants to make sure those opportunities are taken even if his wider focus is on next season.
“We still have the ambition to win races this year and if I had told you in Budapest you’d say that’s pretty possible. Today saying that I look like a fool, but there are some racetracks that will suit our car much more than now, hopefully we’ll get it right on Saturday, so that is our ambition while also at the same time giving it a big focus onto next year. It’s clear.
“I think the positions are where they are, at least between the top three teams it is what it is. Finishing second or third makes no difference to me. Nevertheless I want to have the best possible race result every single weekend in order to gain confidence in what we do.”