Toto Wolff highlights schoolboy error that ‘enticed Mercedes down the wrong path’ in W13 development

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has opened up on exactly why his team went down “the wrong path” during the 2022 season that ended up costing them dearly in the eventual constructors’ standings.

Mercedes has enjoyed being at the top of the F1 hierarchy for a while now, but 2022 was quite an unusual affair for the German outfit.

Wolff has now explained how “exciting” possibilities with regard to its floor development ended up costing the Brackley outfit in 2022.

The technical regulations were revised ahead of the 2022 season and ground effects were introduced for the first time since the 1970s.

Mercedes was expected to be competing for top honours, but they were so far off the pace in the early part of the season that they eventually proved to be of little consideration for Red Bull.

Christian Horner has said that he expects a resurgence from Mercedes in 2023, but Wolff opened up on where it all went wrong this year.

Mercedes suffered from porpoising, which wasn’t a foreign concept for other teams on the circuit, but it bothered the Silver Arrows far more than Red Bull and Ferrari.

Lewis Hamilton famously walked out of the Mercedes W13 during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix clutching his back.

Wolff has now agreed that the team’s decision to tinker with the floor during October 2021 was the sole reason behind such a disappointing campaign.

He argued that Mercedes was “enticed down the wrong path”.

“I remember that we were discussing it in October [2021] how exciting it was to find performance through the floor,” Wolff said.

“The real trick was how low can we actually get the car. And I guess that sent us off to the wrong trajectory.

“It was an interesting journey because obviously we had a massively successful run of eight consecutive championships, and we knew the day would come where it is going to be difficult [to win again].

“But coming out not understanding what was happening [with the car] with some of our competitors [having] understood or having a high-performing car was particularly difficult.

“It took us so many months to filter out and say: ‘This is what the fundamental problem is,’ and it cost us the season in effect.”

Could Mercedes have done something differently?

Elliott was in agreement with Wolff, claiming that the team had pushed the interpretation of the rules too far and therefore found itself well off the pace.

“The aerodynamics of these cars are such that they want to run really low to the ground, and what we were finding in the [wind] tunnel was huge gains with the car operating in that way,” Elliott said.

“When you look back at the season in hindsight, we pushed too hard in that direction and I think we’ve learned a lot as a result of that.

“Any normal season up to now you’ve been able to look at what comes out of Hywel’s world and the power unit, what comes out of the wind tunnel and also out of our simulation and know where you are going to be with the car.

“Normally, we start the season with a pretty good understanding of where our performance is going to be relative to the previous car.

“Obviously, you don’t know what your competitors are going to do but you know where you are going to be, and I think this is the first season I can remember in a long time where we started with a problem we didn’t predict.”

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