Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff heads to the Spanish Grand Prix full of hope that his team can overturn their deficit to Red Bull and Ferrari.
The Silver Arrows have struggled under the new technical regulations this season, and have managed a best finish of third through Sir Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain, and George Russell in Australia.
These results, however, have been a result of reliability failures for Red Bull and mistakes from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, and they have generally been way off the pace of the leading two teams.
Having introduced new skinny sidepods to the second pre-season test in Bahrain, they have endured plenty of issues posed by the “porpoising” phenomenon, and the consensus is that they have left too much of the floor exposed, compounding the turbulence on the straight.
This weekend will be a good chance to compare the new sidepods to the orthodox ones they used in testing, as well as an opportunity to decipher if their new “high-load” setup can help them compete in the corners after their improved performance at the power track in Miami two weeks ago.
Despite this, they could not break into the top four spots which, for the second time this season, were occupied entirely by Red Bull and Ferrari, but Wolff was defiant when asked if the German outfit’s 62-point deficit to the Scuderia at the top was insurmountable.
“No, not at all, we’re only in the fifth race, so you can’t write anything off, it can swing back in our direction,” he said.
“And in terms of points we are not yet dramatically behind.
“Barcelona will be interesting for us because we tested there in February with a fast car. We want to continue there now.
“This could be a mini milestone in that direction. But we have to remain realistic: We are still only third behind Red Bull and Ferrari.”
While Mercedes have fallen back, Red Bull have pressed on and look, at present, the best team on pace following their upgrades in the early going of the season.
Max Verstappen has claimed three race wins so far in 2022, and where he was competing against Hamilton in a quicker Mercedes last season, team principal Christian Horner affirms that the reigning champion is now fighting with more adequate tools.
“Last year Max drove a worse car with a crowbar and won the title,” he said.
“Now he has the fastest car, so everything is easier for him, the pendulum is swinging in his favour.”
Verstappen’s victories have been negated by reliability failures in Bahrain and Melbourne, leaving him 19 points behind Charles Leclerc, who snapped up dominant victories in both of those races.