Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has revealed that the team has been facing issues in planning the development for the 2023 F1 season due to multiple obstructions. The Silver Arrows seem to be mostly clueless about the upgrades for next season, and the overweight chassis issue seems hard to resolve due to the budget cap.
Speaking in an interview ahead of the 2022 F1 Dutch GP, Wolff claimed that their data has not proved to be helpful so far, saying:
“So whatever we decide for next year needs to be carefully evaluated because clearly our data doesn’t give us the results, and doesn’t correlate with the reality. We have massive swings in performance that we can’t really get on top of.”
Stepping into the 2022 F1 season hasn't turned out to be as smooth as Mercedes would have expected it to be. Major aerodynamic issues with the W13 caused the team to suffer and question their dominance. Despite being the most dominating team in the sport for the past seven years, the regulation changes this season seem to have brought the performance to its knees.
Although George Russell has acclimatized to the car well, Lewis Hamilton took some time to do so. For most of the first half of the season, the cars have failed to perform against Ferrari and Red Bull, who are currently leading the tables.
Any hopes of winning either of the titles have passed over into the 2023 season as the points gap this season may be far too much to cover. As recent speculations have shown, the team is still confused about next season's upgrades.
To add major upgrades for the upcoming season, experiments must be conducted by the team in the cars. With the budget cap in play as of now, however, there is very little room for any new experiments. Furthermore, risking any of the cars during a Grand Prix weekend can result in a point loss, which the team certainly wouldn't want happening.
Wolff then went on to add:
“It’s not like we can experiment a lot this year and just simply dial stuff out and test.”
The Austrian team principal claimed that it was a difficult time for the team as there are certain concepts about the car, which cannot be ripped off or changed for next season. Wolff subsequently believes that it can be difficult to upgrade the car in one particular direction.
Mercedes finding it hard to upgrade due to budget cap
It could be a gamble for Mercedes to make changes to their current concepts for next season without experimenting. While it might help the team, it could concurrently put them in a worse situation.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said:
“All these different pillars of the car are evaluated and it could mean that some of that goes and some of that stays? And that’s what we’re looking at at the moment.”
A big reason hindering Mercedes is the budget cap, which was originally introduced to help the smaller teams get into competition with the bigger ones. Throughout the season, most front-row teams, especially Red Bull, have been protesting against it as they believe it stops them from extracting top performances from the cars.
Another regulation this season that has posed a major issue for the teams is the overall weight of the cars. All cars are now supposed to be at least 800 kgs, which has made it difficult for them to go faster and for the drivers to steer into tight corners. Mercedes certainly cannot afford to have a complete change in their chassis as of now due to the budget cap, again, as Wolff said:
“We are massively overweight, which we haven’t been really able to dial out because we are trying parts on the car in order to solve our various issues. So we can’t afford that, full stop.”
He also felt that the purpose of the budget cap had been fulfilled, and it was only introduced to stop the big teams from "throwing money" on their cars to make them faster and better than other teams.
Though many believe the car's issues lie with the suspension, Wolff firmly believes that the chassis is the main reason behind their slow speed. He insists that if the team can make the cars even a little bit lighter, they can outperform others and start to dominate.
Many fans believe Mercedes are at their maximum potential this season, with Ferrari and Red Bull's extensive upgrades hampering their ability to compete.