Toto Wolff makes Mercedes upgrades admission as Lewis Hamilton desperate for boost

Mercedes slumped back to fourth in the pecking order at the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

After performing so well at the Australian Grand Prix, it was back to reality for Mercedes last weekend at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with the Silver Arrows having been well-adrift of the podium places.

In Australia, Mercedes were remarkably second in the pecking order, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton having qualified second and third.

In Azerbaijan on Sunday, Hamilton started the race from fifth, with Russell in P11 after being eliminated in Q2.

Hamilton was unable to convert his P5 start into a second consecutive podium of the season, with the 38-year-old having settled for sixth, two places ahead of Russell.

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In the space of a race, Mercedes had returned to fourth in the pecking order, further emphasising how badly the Germans need the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Mercedes are expected to introduce a new concept of the W14 in Imola, something which the side are hoping will close the gap to Red Bull.

Starting the new aerodynamic regulations with a bad car has truly been so costly for Mercedes, given how difficult it is nowadays in the sport to make rapid progress, due to the budget cap.

Team principal Toto Wolff recognises that the cap has created “so many constraints” at the pinnacle of motorsport, with the Austrian openly admitting that if there wasn’t a budget to stick to, then Mercedes would’ve introduced double the number of upgrades already this year.

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“I think the cost gap gives it so many constraints”, Wolff said.

“Because if we were completely free we would bring a different chassis. So we have to really decide carefully what we want to upgrade, so bringing new front suspension to Imola, and then the aero upgrade that comes with it, and floor.

“But if we were free, we’d probably bring double the amount of upgrades, but so would the others.”

Everything in F1 now has to be calculated to absolute perfection, with Red Bull having discovered the hard way what happens when the budget cap is breached.

As a result, Wolff revealed just how much planning goes into each and every update, in a bid to save as much money as possible.

“Like in the past, we wouldn’t even know what a front suspension costs,” Wolff admitted.

“And today we need to take the purchase price of the aluminium, then factor in how much is actually the cost of the car,  how much is actually the machining of it cost, how much do you need to write off from the aluminium that you don’t need, price out every bolt that goes into the suspension, the carbon that you bought out of the raw material, then cut it, put it on, what’s the energy cost of the composite room, the overhead that goes into this, and at the end comes out the product.”

Calculating all the areas set out by Wolff obviously comes at a cost itself, though, with Mercedes having signed people to figure out what is and what isn’t worth buying.

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All those employees earn salaries which come out of the budget cap, with Wolff stating that the entire process nowadays has become “so difficult and painful”.

“It means that it’s gone so far that we have cost analysts, engineers, that need to decide whether buying that kilogram of raw material of aluminium is worth the performance gain on the other side,” added Wolff.

“And that makes it so complex, and that process is so difficult and painful. People that should be creative only and have basically carte blanche, they can’t do it because somebody is telling them whether it’s feasible in the cost gap or not.”