Toto Wolff has warned Mercedes needs to stay humble ahead of next season, although he believes his team has gained an understanding of how to solve its porpoising issues and will have a stronger package in 2023.
Years of dominance meant Mercedes started the season as a championship favorite amid new regulations, but the team struggled with bouncing from the opening race of the season and was unable to challenge Red Bull and Ferrari regularly. Its only win came at the penultimate round in Brazil and while Wolff told Formula 1’s “Beyond the Grid” podcast that the problems can be addressed next year, the team principal says it’s no guarantee his drivers will be back in the title fight.
“We believe that we solved the underlying problem of the bouncing, but not all of that could have been done on the 2022 car, so we believe it’s going to be easier next year,” Wolff said. “We are changing some of the architecture and the layout of the car that should point us in the right direction.
“But as it is with these new regulations, sometimes you uncover one problem and then you realize there was another underneath, so we have to be humble and not feel a sense of entitlement that we are going to get back into this championship and win straight from the get-go. So I am really looking forward to it.”
Although the problems were faced in a cost cap era, Wolff says Mercedes still would have been in the same position had there been no financial restrictions.
“It wouldn’t have made a difference because we’re not lacking the capability, or we weren’t lacking any of the tools or time. It was more that we needed to peel off layer by layer in order to get to the bottom of the problem, so it wouldn’t have changed anything.”
Despite it having been such a challenge to get the car to perform this season, Wolff insists there are many aspects that his team needs to reflect on fondly and hints the radical sidepod design could remain in place next year.
“I’m proud of the boldness in that we put into this car. When you look at the narrow sidepod concept — which had absolutely nothing to do with the car not performing — it’s something that I’m proud of, how we came about finding the design and putting it on the car.
“And then there’s many other areas that were really good: a power unit that has really done us well throughout the season and reliability was great too. Also on the chassis side, I think we had a high peak downforce, we just couldn’t run the car where we would be able to generate that.”
Wolff believes the lessons learned in 2022 will stand Mercedes in good stead for the future, as tough as the year has been to experience.
“I absolutely believe that you have to fail and get it wrong to prosper. There is no sports team in the world that won every single championship they entered. So the learning has been tough, because talking about it is one thing but then seeing this phenomenon come back weekend after weekend, it really tests the organization and it tests your values.
“I think we had our moments, when I look back, there was a certain degree of pressure — maybe too much — that I put on the organization at times, but it made me learn. I learned about the strengths and the weaknesses of the organizations and in the end it comes back to the sentence that, ‘The days we lose are the days our competitors will regret, because we learn the most.’ Hopefully the future will be proof of that.”