Mercedes will change 'almost every component' on 2024 car to take fight to Red Bull, says Wolff
Toto Wolff believes Mercedes could "have a chance" in their quest to challenge Red Bull with "almost every component" set to be changed on the 2024 car.
The Silver Arrows have endured two seasons of relative decline following their string of eight consecutive constructors’ championships, starting in 2014. The new ground effect ruleset introduced for the 2022 campaign halted their domination as the team’s ‘zero-sidepod’ approach failed to deliver what was hoped.
While that direction was eventually scrapped for something more conventional, Red Bull have since taken their place as the dominant force in F1 – with the RB19 sweeping up victories in all bar one Grand Prix in 2023.
Though Mercedes did do enough to clinch P2 in the constructors’ championship last year, they were a whopping 451 points behind Red Bull, but there are hopes that the once all-conquering team can challenge again.
Speaking to the media following the conclusion of the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Mercedes Team Principal Wolff explained that anything is possible with the changes due on the upcoming W15, though he stopped short of painting an optimistic picture.
“I have never in my life felt optimistic about anything!” he said. “Which makes me sound a little bit miserable, but it has protected me about managing my expectations and just pushing harder, because I think it's never good enough.
“That's why, also today, I sit here with a bittersweet feeling: we've won P2 [in 2023 but] we've lost P1. We're changing the concept, we're completely moving away from how we laid out the chassis, the weight distribution, the air flow. Literally, there's almost every component being changed, because only by doing that, I think we have a chance.
“We could get it wrong also. So, between not gaining what we expect, to catching up and making a big step and competing at the front, everything is possible. If you ask me today, as always, scepticism, but that's the mentality of the team that pushes us forward, to never give up.”
While there is plenty of work to do in developing Mercedes’ 2024 car, Wolff is in no doubt as to the capabilities of the drivers at his disposal. Regarding seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, the Mercedes boss was adamant he can still fight for World Championships given the right car.
“From Lewis’s perspective, he had a bad weekend, fact,” Wolff said, alluding the race in Abu Dhabi where Hamilton finished in ninth. “I think that doesn’t [take away from] him being the greatest driver in the world.
“If we’re able to give him a car, then he would be fighting for a World Championship, I have no doubt. It’s clear that when you have a Formula 1 car like we have now, you’re never at ease with it – you have good weekends and bad weekends.
“In the end, every time where we’ve seen that Lewis has someone in his target in front of him, and it was about winning the race, then the real Lewis comes alive, and I think we just need to give him that [opportunity].”