Wolff: ‘We don’t know if we are even in the hunt for another title’

Formula 1's technical regulations have drastically changed ahead of the 2022 season, and uncertainty reigns as to who will best adapt to them.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff can give no guarantees regarding the Silver Arrows’ competitiveness this year, insisting that they will simply have to wait and see whether or not they have nailed the new technical regulations.

Formula 1 has radically altered its cars ahead of the new season, with aerodynamic efficiency being severely limited compared to last season.

Further, the tyres have increased in size to 18 inches, and the engines are expected to generate marginally less power.

Mercedes High Performance Powertrains [HPP] boss Hywel Thomas has previously suggested that his department may need to make alterations after the pre-season tests in Barcelona and Sakhir, and Wolff cannot say whether the Brackley squad have managed to give Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell a race-winning car.

“The hopes are that we have a competitive car, it is not a given with the new regulations,” he said upon the release of Mercedes’ 2022 car, the W13.

“People are saying are we going to win another title and we don’t know if we are even in the hunt for another title.

“What I know is this team has always has been able, even if circumstances were difficult like at the beginning of last year, to just dig ourselves out of a disadvantage situation.

“Wherever the car is I’m sure we’ll be doing everything to competitive.

“So my hope is that the car goes fast, and that Lewis and George are happy with how it drives. That would be a good starting point.”

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Hamilton missed out on his eighth Drivers’ Championship in controversial style at the end of 2021, as a bizarre Safety Car restart by race director Michael Masi led to a final lap overtake from Max Verstappen to snatch his maiden world title.

Despite this, Mercedes did manage to pip Red Bull and claim their record eighth straight constructors’ crown, which the Austrian still finds breath-taking.

“Eight championships, I mean it feels a little bit surreal that we achieved that eight times in a row,” he marvelled.

However, he is keen to leave this, along with the 37-year-old’s heart-breaking defeat, at the door as the pinnacle of motorsport embarks on a new era.

“Obviously there was a shadow with the Drivers’ Championship, with Lewis’ championship and the Abu Dhabi situation, but let’s look into the future,” he stated.

“The mindset of the team has been the same over the past few years, the points card goes back to zero.

“There is nothing from the previous year that will make you win the current championship.

“No credits to be taken, and no sense of entitlement.

“Every year we are sceptical as to whether we have done a good enough job, and that’s the right mentality.”

Chief technical officer of the team, James Allison, has testified that the new set of regulations are the biggest change he has ever seen in his 30 years’ experience in F1, and Wolff agrees that the new evolution has presented “an almost seismic change” which has proved “exciting for all of us and soon we will see if we have done a good enough job.”

The 50-year-old equivocates that there is no benchmark to go on for Mercedes, and that they have had to trust their own substantial expertise to try and put together a competitive car this year.

“You can only rely on your own skills, on your organisation, on your ethos and your values,” he explained.

“It will be interesting to see whether we missed out on some innovation or whether we have been the ones who lead the charge in terms of performance.

“Whichever is the case, our success will be defined by how we adapt to the situation and develop our understanding of the car throughout the season.

“2022 is a year full of opportunities and risks; it’s two sides of the same high-stakes coin, which is why we love sport so much.”

The teams will have six days of testing in Barcelona and Sakhir before the new season gets up and running in Bahrain, after which the engines will be frozen until the end of 2025.