Toto Wolff: Mercedes “can close that gap this year” to Red Bull


Toto Wolff has explained what he believes is the key for Mercedes to overturn the advantage in performance Red Bull currently boasts with the RB19.

The Mercedes team principal has watched his team begin the 2023 season in quite an unconvincing fashion, carrying over many of the limitations from last year’s design.

This has prompted the team to undergo a restructuring with its senior personnel, as evidenced by the return of James Alisson to the role of technical director.

It is uncertain to quantify how much impact Alisson can have at the Silver Arrows for the rest of the season or if his influence will be more concentrated on development for 2024.

F1 has always consisted of a balancing act between short-term and medium-term goals, and this challenge again presents itself to the former World Champions.

However, regardless of Alisson’s return, Mercedes must determine the direction they want to pursue this season if they are to establish the necessary foundations to become contenders next season.

Toto Wolff (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Friday 10th December 2021. Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE.

After all, next year’s W15 will be largely a continuation of this year’s package, so the team must start its upward trajectory quickly.

Despite the obstacles ahead of the Silver Arrows, Toto Wolff does not believe race wins are beyond reach:

“The pace in free air today looked similar between ourselves, the Ferraris and the Aston Martins,” Wolff said after the Baku GP.

“It was hard to tell who was ultimately quicker, though, because with the difficulty of overtaking – you are stuck when you are stuck. 

“The Red Bulls, meanwhile, sailed away into the sunset on merit. If we can get the platform right, though, I think we can close that gap this year. 

“It’s not about adding points of downforce, more [about] giving the drivers a car that they have confidence in.”

Wolff’s comments have been somewhat mirrored by his drivers, with both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell expressing the W14’s sub-optimal drivability.

However, considering the advantage Red Bull has enjoyed across a range of different circuits this year, it seems optimistic for the Mercedes boss to expect his team.

Establishing the correct foundation or “platform” will certainly be crucial, not just for 2023 but also for the team’s long-term development during these regulations.

Perhaps it is unfair to criticise Wolff for showing optimism and ambition. Still, it will take a quite significant step forward for Mercedes (alongside a sideways step from Red Bull) to fight for victories on a consistent basis this year.