Mercedes is seeing promising signs back at its factory as it looks to turn around its car performance and challenge Red Bull this season, according to team principal Toto Wolff.
Red Bull’s early dominance has seen Mercedes admit it got its 2023 car concept wrong, with the team immediately exploring new directions as any work will carry over into future years. Wolff says having a car quick enough for the second row in Jeddah and beating the two Ferraris was a strong result but the data gained to help inform its new direction was of greater significance.
“The progress we saw in Saudi Arabia was encouraging,” Wolff said. “We maximized the package we had and scored some solid points. More importantly, we continued to learn and understand more about the W14 and our development direction. Everyone back at base has been hard at work to turn these learnings into performance.
“The signs we are seeing back at the factory are promising. We have got to take it step by step, though, and won’t get carried away until we see performance translated into lap time on track. The competitive order behind Red Bull is tight, with small margins having a big effect on points scored. There remains a significant gap to the front and that is ultimately what we are interested in closing.”
The optimism surrounding the work that is ongoing at the factory is longer-term than this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, however, with Wolff admitting Mercedes is set for another challenging race.
“Albert Park is a circuit with unique characteristics, which we will have to work hard to adapt to with the W14. As always, we will look to maximize the car we have, and score as many points as our potential currently allows. We are not where we want to be — but that won’t stop us from racing hard and giving it everything we’ve got.”
Mercedes is targeting major car updates within the next five races — aided by the gap in events in April — and technical director Mike Elliott says it’s important Melbourne provides further guidance on the team’s future developments.
“Firstly, our main aim at the moment is to continue learning,” Elliott said. “We’ve only had two races so far; it’s really difficult to build trends from that. And really what we are concentrating on is trying to work out how do we keep moving forward? Can we make that next little step? Can we gain some more understanding that is going to help us to recover?
“In terms of the actual characteristics of the circuit, Australia is probably front-limited and probably more like Jeddah than Bahrain. So, let’s hope that we can find another small step forward, get a bit more competitive, find the learning that is going to help us move forward in the long term.”