Toto Wolff has admitted that Mercedes will once again have to start from scratch in their bid to catch Red Bull, leaving Lewis Hamilton at risk of taking a backward step in his goal for an eighth world title. There was genuine optimism at Mercedes heading into this year after they closed the gap with Red Bull at the end of the 2022 season.
Their one-two finish in Brazil led to some quiet confidence that they’d be challenging Verstappen from the very first race in 2023. But they were even further away than 12 months prior as the changes made in the offseason failed to have the desired effect.
Hamilton and George Russell were left frustrated as they faced another season not fighting for regular race wins. The seven-time world champion made it clear after just a few races that he was not happy with the direction the team had headed in before Wolff decided to scrap their design heading into the summer months.
Mercedes have improved since then and the United States Grand Prix was arguably the closest they have come to truly challenging Red Bull since 2021. That suggests Mercedes are heading in the right direction with their current development plan.
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However, Wolff insists they’ve taken this car as far as they can and the 2024 version will be completely different. “We are changing the car completely because we simply have to make the jump to Red Bull and half a second is missing,” Wolff said.
“We won’t achieve that in further development.” Mercedes will be hoping for a better offseason this time around than last year to avoid dropping further behind Red Bull again.
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There are still four more chances this year for Mercedes to stand on top of the podium and for Hamilton to end his long wait for a race victory. His last win came at the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with his next chance coming this weekend in Mexico.
But Hamilton’s best chance may come in Sao Paulo at the Brazilian Grand Prix next month. It’s a track the Brit has performed well at over the years and Mercedes will hope they can repeat their success from 2022.
However, Wolff has indicated the team are already well on their way to planning for 2024 with hopes of finally knocking Red Bull off their perch.
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