Toto Wolff was quite candid about the troubles faced by Mercedes at the start of F1 2023 season in Bahrain GP.

Mercedes fell short hugely in the F1 2023 opener in Bahrain where they even lost out to Aston Martin, who are a customer of theirs using nearly half the parts they run. Coming off from a difficult 2022, there was hope on the current year with no bouncing issue.

They thought they could carry on with the current concept after finding some success at the latter part of last year. But the testing and the first round made it clear that they need some big changes which is likely an overhaul of the concept.

It isn’t a decision that just happened in one round, but something they were already mulling behind the scenes if things didn’t go their way. While Wolff did not go into details, but alerted that they have looked at multiple concepts back at the base.

Considering how Aston Martin has done so far, Wolff didn’t mentioned them directly in this but signalled something related to it. The Austrian credited them for the success, while noting the targets they did hit but it wasn’t the right ones unfortunately.

At the moment, they are looking re-align those targets where gaining downforce will be key. Wolff was clear that he wasn’t ‘bullshitting’ anyone by admitting failure or concept change and that he wished to be as transparent as possible.

Package/concept capable to deliver or major overhaul –

Wolff: “I don’t think so, this package is going to be competitive eventually. And we gave it our best go also over the winter. And now we just need to regroup. Sit down with the engineers who are totally not dogmatic about anything, there is no holy cows and decide what is the development direction that we want to pursue in order to be competitive to win races. It’s not only, like last year that you scoring many podiums, and eventually you get there. I’m sure we can win races this season. But it’s really the mid and long term that we need to look at and which decisions we need to take.”

Targets missed of such a decision –

Wolff: “We hit our targets, we hit our targets. And that’s why we gave it our best shot. And the moment comes when the stopwatch comes out and that showed us that it’s simply not good enough. We haven’t got enough downforce. And we need to we need to find solutions to fix that.”

Bahrain results any surprise – 

Wolff: “We started last year with six tenths and we’re starting this year with six tenths and that is the reality. Our aim while being humble about it is to fight for victories and the world championships. So whatever is between us and the top is less relevant. Because now Fernando is there we can only keep our head off for what Aston Martin achieved, two seconds in half a year and their cars is half hours from the engine, gearbox and the rear suspension and the same wind tunnel. So, there’s a lot of parallels and we just need to acknowledge that they’ve done an outstanding job. Also, if it was mechanical or suspension [weakness] then Aston Martin should have it too. The point is we’re losing it in the high speed. It’s Turns 5/6/7. This is pretty much the only place where we’re losing large chunks of time. We are okay in the other corners, we are okay on the straight.”

Any possibility to catch Red Bull in real –

Wollf: “As I said, we are racers and we will never give up fighting every single session to be on top. And if you look at the pecking order at the moment, you say, well, it’s not realistic maybe. But I’m looking at what can we find next week? What can we add to the car? What is the change of direction that we can that we can implement? And how quickly is that and maybe we can turn the ship around this year. It’s just first weekend of 23 and that’s why I don’t want to discount anything for this year while being totally realistic, but it needs a lot to change that to change the pecking order.”

Learning from Aston Martin and they are the concept to go –

Wolff: “Yes, definitely [there’s to learn]. I think testing was not clean. We had big oscillations in performance and didn’t really understand it. And I think we saw that we unlocked some potential as the weekend progressed in Bahrain. But because the top cars are so close to each other, between the 1-2-3-4 teams with Aston Martin now, it goes up and down that can change a lot. Definitely everyday counts, losing these days, it’s going to be difficult to catch up and when and therefore we need to take the right precise decisions now in order to set the sails in the right direction. I think it’s pretty clear where we should be going. We just need to make the data work. And I think the most important is re-establishing a solid baseline. Say, this is where we are. There’s no surprises in new direction.”

Can’t throw this car, modify or what changes –

Wolff: “We will tackle that straight at the beginning of the week, because when you look at where we were at the end of the season where it seemed like we caught up a lot. It was just a matter of which circuit suited us and which not. I think we almost doubled, if not tripled the gap to Red Bull. And this is what we need to look at. Everything in between that is Ferrari, that’s just a sideshow. And having said that, I mean, what Aston Martin was able to achieve is a good inspiration.

“Because they came back from two seconds off the pace to being second quickest team probably on the road. And with us, everything’s bad that maybe the single lap pace was still good. But in the race, we saw the consequences. And to put it bluntly, just we were lacking downforce and when we are lacking downforce the tyres are sliding, and when we are sliding the tyres, we are going backwards.”

Unusual to admit such a thing –

Wolff: “First of all, I’m not bullshitting myself, and I’m not bullshitting you guys. I’m trying all these years being transparent and honest. And this is what I’m seeing here. This is how I feel right now. I’m not overreacting or under reacting. As a matter of fact, the gap is very big. And in order to catch up, you need to make big steps, not the conventional ones, by adding a few points every week because everybody else is going to do that.

“I think it’s just the starting base is just very different where we are today. We’ve lost the year in development. In order to have a steeper development card, you just need to take these decisions. And as I said before, Aston Martin took that decision, they came back strong. So if we start from our base, maybe we can come back strong and just chase the Red Bulls. That’s the ambition.”

Already looked at other concepts and what’s being done –

Wolff: “I think it’s the whole development of the car. We are finding good downforce in the tunnel. We found good downforce in the tunnel since many months. But we have got to look at how we can optimise it in a way where maybe we find more of that. And what I really enjoy is working in a team and discovering that. And I said it last year, sometimes it’s important for the long term to get it wrong. And I trust every millimetre to the engineers and we got the physics wrong and now we need to correct it because there’s another three years of regulations to go. We’ve looked at other ideas and haven’t stood still. And that’s not only since two weeks when we saw that we haven’t been able to close the gap, but we’ve done it since a while just to be open minded. And still with an emphasis on making this work, obviously. But we’ve already looked at different concepts.”

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