Toto Wolff rues lost development time, praises Red Bull ‘sweetness’

Mercedes find themselves 40 points behind Ferrari in the fight for second, after a year playing catch-up.

Mercedes can almost turn the page to 2023, with just races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi remaining in their woeful 2022 season.

Being too innovative has essentially caused a number of the Germans issues this season, with the W13 having been their worst-designed car of the hybrid era.

The team are likely more than ready to say goodbye to the ‘diva’, with the side’s technical director admitting that fixing the issues with the car has been like peeling an onion.

Porpoising has been the overall cause to their struggles, as the side have had to helplessly watch on as Red Bull and Ferrari escaped into the distance.

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes his side have fallen “eight to 10 months” behind in development, due to prioritising so much time towards overcoming their bouncing problem, which caused Lewis Hamilton severe spinal pain.

Since sorting out the issue, the gap between Mercedes and the leading duo has decreased, with the Silver Arrows having had a better package than Ferrari at recent rounds.

Despite this, it does appear to be too little too late for the 2014-2021 Constructors’ Champions, who are 40 points behind the Italians in the battle for second in the table.

Wolff has admitted that his team are “playing the long game” but that they at least “understand” how to close the gap completely.

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“We believe that we understand where the gap comes from,” said Wolff.

“They [Red Bull] will carry over some of their sweetness in the car, and we’ve maybe lost eight to 10 months in terms of development because we couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

“So there’s definitely a challenge. But we’re playing the long game here, all of us, both drivers are playing the long game, the team.

“The judge around the team, of performance, is not based on a single year or weekend. It’s how we have been able to win championships over the long term.”

The team’s innovative ‘zero sidepod’ philosophy is believed to have been a large reason as to why they suffered from porpoising more than any other side, with the car having also been designed “on the deck”.

The reduction in airflow into the sidepods resulted in more air going over the chassis, which, therefore, pushed the car closer to the circuit.

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The air between the circuit and the floor was then able to suck the W13 against it, causing the bouncing phenomena which caused Mercedes so many issues.

Mercedes’ team principal admitted that learning this was a “small level of hamster steps”, with the side set to be more careful going forward in regard to their ride height.

“We thought we could run the car on the deck,” he told Sky F1 in Austin, “but you can’t, so it’s a small level of hamster steps.”