SAKHIR, Bahrain — Mercedes group principal Toto Wolff has instructed his engineers to return to the drafting board after conceding the group’s automotive idea will not be ok to battle for the title this yr.
George Russell and Lewis Hamilton certified sixth and seventh for the opening race of the 2023 season in Bahrain, with Russell 0.632s off Max Verstappen’s pole place time.
Though Saturday’s qualifying session is simply the primary of 23 this yr, the dimensions of the hole signifies the group has made a step backwards relative to its fundamental rivals over the winter.
Since new technical laws have been launched final yr, Mercedes has pursued a singular automotive idea, that includes distinctive slim sidepods that no different group on the grid has copied.
After defending the idea all through 2022 and opting to keep it up initially of this season, Wolff admits a change can be obligatory for the group to constantly battle for victories long run.
“I do not suppose this package deal goes to be aggressive finally,” he stated. “We gave it our greatest go over the winter and now we have to regroup, sit down with the engineers, who’re completely not dogmatic about something — there aren’t any holy cows — and resolve what’s the growth course that we need to pursue to be able to be aggressive to win races.
“It’s not like final yr if you rating many podiums and finally you get there, I am certain that we will win races this season, however it’s the mid- and long-term that we have to take a look at and which choices we have to make.”
Mercedes has plans to switch its bodywork with a serious improve later within the season, however Wolff stated it was unlikely to be sufficient to shut the hole to the entrance and problem for the title this yr.
“I do not know what’s going to occur this yr, we might discover a silver bullet subsequent week and unlock five-tenths within the automotive, however I have not seen any silver bullets earlier than,” he added.
“You by no means know, however undoubtedly mid-term and long-term, we simply must have a automotive that is ready to make us battle for an eighth championship.”
GPS knowledge exhibits the brand new Mercedes is a match for the quickest automobiles in low-speed corners however is dropping efficiency in high-speed corners.
Wolff stated the group had hit its inside efficiency targets over the winter however nonetheless fell wanting its rivals, resulting in his perception that the automotive idea wants to alter.
“On this group we blame the issue and never the particular person, and on the finish I’ve tasks and I might want to fireside myself if I wished to do one thing [to react],” he stated. “So, we’ve got all of the elements to achieve success — the individuals and infrastructure that received eight championships in a row.
“We bought it mistaken final yr, we thought we might repair it by sticking to this idea of automotive and it did not work out. We have to change our concentrate on to what we imagine may be the fitting course — what it’s that we’re lacking and subsequently these knowledge factors from this weekend are crucial.
“We’ve got seen on the GPS the place we’re missing efficiency and we’ve got seen the place we’re good, and we simply must kind out what that’s and whether or not that’s sticking larger sidepods on the automotive or actually refined issues that carry efficiency is a distinct query.
“Positively inside the group we’ll embark on untrodden paths.”