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Toto Wolff admits to fundamental problem with Mercedes W15

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admits his team are struggling to understand the W15. This goes beyond just this year, with the Silver Arrows clearly missing a crucial element of the 2024 F1 regulations. Moving forward, Wolff admits there is no certainty this knowledge gap will be filled.

The Australian GP was, for all intents and purposes, a disaster for Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell both retired from the race, meaning the German constructor left Albert Park empty-handed.

A rare reliability failure brought Hamilton’s W15 to a halt, cementing the 7-time Champion’s rather disappointing start to 2024. On the other side of the garage, a crash on the final lap meant that Russell also did not finish.

However, these DNFs are not the most disheartening aspect of last weekend’s race for Mercedes. Instead, their lack of performance relative to their rivals emerged as their biggest concern.

Once again, the W15 showed signs of life in Free Practice. The Silver Arrows finished within a tenth of FP3’s fastest overall time, providing the team with some hope ahead of qualifying.

However, this performance soon dissipated. Whether because other teams stepped things up or Mercedes went backwards, the result was painful for Toto Wolff’s team all the same. Hamilton was eliminated in the second part of qualifying, whilst Russell was largely an afterthought in Q3.

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Toto Wolff admits to significant problems

Reflecting on the Australian GP weekend, the Mercedes team principal admitted to genuine concerns at Brackley:

“There are sessions on the track where we’re absolutely there with the performance, but then it goes away.

“In the third free practice session, for example, we’re a tenth behind. But in qualifying we’re seven tenths behind.

“We don’t understand some of the car’s behaviour that we would have always understood in the past.”

Another fact to consider, which Wolff mentioned in other comments, is how Mercedes have regressed compared to rivals.

Last season, McLaren finished last in the points at this Grand Prix. Twelve months later, Andrea Stella’s team is comfortably ahead in the standings – finishing third with Norris and fourth with Piastri in Melbourne.

Despite all the negativity surrounding last year’s Mercedes challenger, Lewis Hamilton finished second in the 2023 Australian GP. George Russell was also fighting for the lead before suffering a series of unfortunate events.

Put simply, James Allison and his technical have gone backwards compared to their rivals. Perhaps of greater concern, they do not know why.

Only a month ago, the Mercedes technical director predicted Mercedes would be Red Bull’s closest challenger in 2024. Evidently, this is not the case.

Ferrari rubbed salt in the wounds with a landmark 1-2 victory, demonstrating performance and clear progress over winter. The Maranello-based team was in a similar position to the Silver Arrows last season, being forced to return to the drawing board after making mistakes over winter.

This time, however, the Italian outfit corrected its mistakes. The same cannot be said for Mercedes, who could have a very difficult 2024 unless something changes very soon.


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