Wolff: ‘Bright spots’ not enough, Mercedes ‘must improve’


Toto Wolff says Mercedes cannot continue to rely on “bright spots” on race weekends to gauge its performance, insisting the Brackley squad must “take a step” forward.

Mercedes' struggles this season show no signs of abating. While a second-place finish for Lewis Hamilton in the Chinese Grand Prix sprint race offered a glimmer of hope, Sunday’s main event proved to be another story.

Hamilton made the most of a catastrophic qualifying to carry himself from P18 to P9 at the checkered flag, but teammate George Russell, who qualified 8th, could do no better than 6th at the end of the day, with McLaren’s Lando Norris and both Ferrari drivers preceding the best-placed Mercedes.

The team’s inconsistency is a major concern for team principal Toto Wolff. Despite ongoing efforts to understand their problematic W15 car, Mercedes hasn't shown a clear path towards improvement.

Wolff emphasized the need for significant progress, not just occasional flashes of strength.

In an interview with Servus TV, the Mercedes boss expressed his dissatisfaction: "Not satisfied at all. Maybe a small highlight with second place in the sprint race, but the performance is not there.

“We can keep telling ourselves that there were bright spots at the weekend, but we have to take a step.

“We'll bring some upgrades to Miami, where hopefully we can see some improvement. But today, finishing behind Ferrari and Norris simply isn't good enough."

Mercedes entered the 2024 season with optimism surrounding their new W15 car, a design that would hopefully benefit from the team’s many lessons garnered since 2022 at the onset of F1’s ground-effect era.

While initial assessments pointed to a solid platform, relative weakness in high-speed corners was noted.

However, the team has gradually unearthed a multitude of complexities associated with its car, making its W15 a significant challenge to set up and optimize.

This conundrum became particularly evident in Japan, where, as Wolff acknowledged, improvements made for high-speed sections came at the cost of pace in other types of corners.

Mercedes' initial belief in a strong foundation now seems like a distant memory as they grapple with the W15's hidden intricacies. Therefore, the hunt for a setup that unlocks the car's true potential continues, much to Wolff’s frustration.

"I think we absolutely achieved that, in the high speed we were super competitive, also in Suzuka through the Esses, and it was day and night compared to what we had before," said Wolff.

"The drivers were speaking about it as the best car they had in the last two-and-a-half years. Then we really didn't perform in the low speeds.

"So you gain half a second in the high speed, but you lose half a second in the low speed. The equation is back to zero, so that is something we need to improve.

"We are beyond the point of understanding and we just need to improve now. That is what it needs to hop to, and we have all the facts on the table.

"We know what we tweaked in order to solve the high-speed, and we know where the car was before to be quick in the low-speed. Now we just need to bolt the car together that does both of them."

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