Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has admitted that the German team’s current aerodynamic concept is not going to work.
Following a tough 2022 campaign, the Brackley-based outfit decided to stick with its skinny sidepod design for this campaign, but signs from the opening qualifying session of 2023 would suggest that this has not worked.
Following three below par practice sessions, Russell and Hamilton could only manage sixth and seventh respectively on another painful evening, and the current design of the W14, in Wolff’s mind, is not up to garnering results.
READ MORE: Verstappen clinches pole in Bahrain as Red Bull claim front row
“I don’t think this package is going to be competitive eventually,” said the Austrian.
“We gave it our best go over the winter and now we need to regroup, sit down with the engineers, who are totally not dogmatic about anything, there are no holy cows, and decide what is the development direction that we want to pursue in order to be competitive to win races.
“It is not like last year when you score many podiums and eventually you get there. I’m sure that we can win races this season, but it’s the mid and long term that we need to look at and which decisions we need to make.”
Wolff refused to pin the blame on technical director Mike Elliott for persisting with Mercedes’ adventurous design, and insisted that the team will work together to solve its issues.
“In this team we blame the problem and not the person, and at the end I have responsibilities and I’d need to fire myself if I want to do something,” he explained. “So, we had all the ingredients to be successful – the people and infrastructure that won eight championships in a row.
“We got it wrong last year, we thought we could fix it by sticking to this concept of car and it didn’t work out.
“We need to switch our focus on to what we believe can be the right direction, what is it that we are missing and therefore those data points this weekend are very important.
“We have seen on the GPS where we are lacking performance and we have seen where we are good, and we just need to sort out what that is and whether that is sticking bigger sidepods on the car or really subtle things that bring performance is a different question.
“Definitely within the group we will embark on untrodden paths.”
Russell and Hamilton qualified six tenths of a second off the pace of polesitter Max Verstappen, who will lead a Red Bull one-two off the line on Sunday after Sergio Perez’s fine effort in qualifying.