Toto Wolff says Mercedes’ car concept has been proven wrong and needs major changes that might only come to fruition for a better 2024 after not gaining ground on Red Bull.
Lewis Hamilton’s lead Mercedes finished 50 seconds adrift of race-winner Max Verstappen in the Bahrain Grand Prix, a deficit of nearly a second per lap on average. With Mercedes having stuck with its zero-sidepod concept, seeing its customer team Aston Martin emerge as Red Bull’s closest challenger has been a wake-up call that the whole approach might need to change but could take too long to implement to save any championship hopes in 2023.
“So far, not where we want to be, but we are learning – we got it wrong and we will get there,” Wolff told SpeedCity Broadcasting. “I’m not sure it is possible to turn it around for the whole year, but maybe we need to set the sails for next year.”
Given the gap between Mercedes and the frontrunners, and the fact it couldn’t hold off Fernando Alonso or find a way past the only remaining Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, Wolff had a damning assessment of Sunday’s race.
“That was one of our worst days in racing. It was not good at all; we are lacking pace front, right, and centre. The Aston Martins are very fast, and the Red Bull is just on a different planet. It hurts that they are so far ahead; it reminds me of our best years where we put one second on everyone else.
“That is the benchmark. We need to put one foot in front of the other to come back but nobody in this team will throw in the towel. We need to dig deep, deeper than we ever have done before. And we can do that.”
And speaking on wider terms after the opening race, Wolff says Mercedes needs to take risks and radically change its car concept to be able to compete this season rather than just hope to deliver strong development on its current path.
“When you look at where we were at the end of the season, where it looked like we caught up a lot but we have almost doubled if not tripled, the gap to Red Bull. What Aston Martin has been able to achieve is a good inspiration because they have come back from two seconds off the pace and become the second-best team.
“For us, everything is bad and in the race you saw the consequences and we were going backwards. The drivers are fully aware. We’re speaking about it openly in the whole team. It is a matter of serious performance we need to find.
“I’m not bullshitting myself and I’m not bullshitting the media. I have always been transparent and honest. What I’m saying here is how I feel right now. I’m not overreacting; the gap is very big and in order to catch up we need to make big steps. Not conventional ones.”