Mercedes would not have even contemplated the possibility of falling so far behind Red Bull and Ferrari under the new regulations, but their worst fears were realised in 2023 as the team struggled their way to a single race victory.
The team looked off the pace from the very beginning, but also had to battle with a severe porpoising issue that was causing both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell a lot of pain when driving the car over the race weekends.
The time dedicated to fixing this problem cost the team months of development, and while Toto Wolff is confident that his team has the capability to make amends in 2023, he admits that nothing is granted in Formula 1.
“I’m a glass half empty guy and I never believe that the job that we are doing is good enough,” he explained.
“I’m not sure at all whether we can bounce back to a position where we compete for championships because you need to acknowledge that the competition is strong. But we will do everything in our power, everything to set our objectives high and try to reach them.”
The Silver Arrows managed to better compete towards the end of the season, picking up their only win of the year in Brazil, as part of a one-two spearheaded by George Russell.
While a race win would have been a huge relief for the team, it is worth noting that both Ferrari and Red Bull were fully focused on developing their 2023 cars while Mercedes continued to upgrade the W13.
Wolff has admitted that his team were caught out by the major regulation changes that came into effect in 2022, claiming that his team got the physics wrong which put them on the back foot.
While some have suggested that Mercedes could enter a period of non-competitiveness like Ferrari recently endured, the Austrian is confident of avoiding a title drought.
“The regulation changed, we got it wrong,” admitted Wolff.
“But all the other pillars are still in place and we have to tune the systems and understand. And I am 100% sure that this was a difficult year that was necessary for us to re-motivate and re-energise the organisation.
“We won eight [titles] in a row, more than 100 races. And this has again made us come back down to the ground, made us appreciate how it feels when you win in Brazil, and also understand how difficult it is to recover – not from [losing] a race like we’ve had before, but from many races that were just not good enough.”
Mercedes have said that they are confident of providing Hamilton and Russell with a better car in 2023, which will come as music to the ears of both drivers, who have serious title ambitions in the near future.