Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has conceded that it is unrealistic to expect Mercedes to catch up to Red Bull in the 2023 Formula 1 season.
Although Mercedes has not suffered a repeat of the porpoising that stifled its early season form in 2022, its evolutionary W14 has struggled for speed again in the opening rounds.
The Silver Arrows appear to have dropped behind engine customer Aston Martin in the pecking order, while Red Bull has asserted a dominant stranglehold on the sport.
The reigning champions have registered successive 1-2 finishes to begin the campaign, with Mercedes finishing over half a second adrift in both races.
Red Bull’s margin of superiority over the rest and Mercedes’ troubles have led Wolff to state it wouldn’t be a realistic proposition to think it could catch F1’s current benchmark team this year.
“We’re just two races in this year, but is it realistic when we look at the gaps? No, it’s not,” Wolff told Autosport.
“But we just want to give it all we have and then see what the outcome of that is.
“We’ve been able to catch up a lot last year with a car that was bouncing way too much, and that in a way was overshadowing everything.
“Finally we won a race and got closer to them, and I think that needs to be the aspiration.”
The rude awakening it received in Bahrain prompted Wolff to defiantly outline that Mercedes would have to move away from its revolutionary zero sidepod concept.
Having promised visible changes to its car in the coming races, Mercedes is aiming to bring an extensive upgrade package to the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola in May.
However, Wolff has highlighted that it could potentially take the Brackley-based outfit up to an entire year before it can equip its drivers with the machinery to challenge the Red Bulls.
“I think the length [of time] is probably between six and 12 months, because that’s the time that it really took for us [last year] to figure out what was actually happening with the car,” he explained.
“That means we just need to have double the development speed, so a stronger development slope.
“The logic and rational speaks that for Red Bull, their gains are going to be incrementally smaller if the concept is mature.
“I think aero wise, and with wind tunnel time, that can help a bit but not hugely.
“It’s just, we’ve just got to get our act together and, if we fundamentally understand where we need to put the car, then the steps are going to be large. But we need to be perfect.”
After a more positive showing in Saudi Arabia to eclipse Ferrari, George Russell is confident that Mercedes has “some more performance in the locker” for the races to come.
Heading to Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix, Mercedes currently occupies third spot in the Constructors’ standings despite its disappointing start.
The eight-time F1 champions are level on points with Aston Martin and 12 clear of Ferrari but already a substantial 49 points behind Red Bull’s leading tally of 87.
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