Mercedes’ Toto Wolff: “That was one of our worst days in racing”

Toto Wolff certainly didn’t hold back when reflecting on Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s start to the 2023 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, describing his team’s outing at the Bahrain Grand Prix as one of their ‘worst days in racing’.

Lewis Hamilton finished fifth for Mercedes while George Russell came home in seventh but the W14’s overall lack of pace and competitiveness displayed at the Bahrain International Circuit left the team boss in a downbeat mood.

Hamilton’s race got off to a positive start, overtaking both his team-mate and Fernando Alonso before turn one but by time of the second round of pitstops Mercedes would go onto pit Hamilton earlier than they perhaps would have wanted to in an attempt to deny Alonso and Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team the chance of an undercut.

Despite successfully denying the undercut, the sheer pace of the AMR23 was evident when matched up against the W14. Hamilton’s best effort to fend off Alonso would only take the seven-time world champion so far as the Spaniard made a bold move at turn ten to execute an exquisite overtake.

After losing out to his teammate on the opening lap, Russell’s attention turned to defending both Aston Martin drivers. Russell’s resistance was broken on lap thirteen as Alonso battled his way past the British driver at turn six. While Lance Stroll would make his way past by virtue of a successful undercut deployed by the Aston Martin pit wall.

Even with a sixteen-point haul to their name after one race of the season, Wolff offered a brutally honest assessment of the W14’s current performance and where Mercedes must look to now.

That was one of our worst days in racing. It was not good at all; we are lacking pace front, right, and centre. The Aston Martins are very fast, and the Red Bull is just on a different planet. It hurts that they are so far ahead; it reminds me of our best years where we put one second on everyone else.

That is the benchmark. We need to put one foot in front of the other to come back but nobody in this team will throw in the towel. We need to dig deep, deeper than we ever have done before. And we can do that.

Andrew Shovlin: “The gap to Red Bull is huge”

Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin added to Wolff’s comments by admitting that the gap between themselves and Oracle Red Bull Racing is ‘huge’.

Worryingly for Mercedes, Hamilton would finish a substantial fifty seconds behind Max Verstappen, highlighting the sizeable gap between the two teams, who just two seasons ago competed in one of the tightest championship battles the sport has ever seen.

“It was a very difficult Sunday; the gap to Red Bull is huge and we’ve got Aston Martin and Ferrari ahead of us too”, Shovlin stated.

“Clearly, we have a lot of work ahead and we need to go back and come up with a plan to try and find improvements.

After the race, both Russell and Hamilton stated they felt the reason the W14 lacked competitiveness against the frontrunners was because of a lack of downforce. Whereas Shovlin believed that a lack of grip and high degradation was the main factor at play to explain why Mercedes failed to fight at the front.

We are lacking overall grip and, on a high degradation track like this, there was nothing that the drivers could do to attack. However, it’s encouraging to see how the team is pulling together and how well the drivers are working together.

Shovlin finished by admitting that to be entering a second successive season on the back foot is simply unacceptable for a team of Mercedes’ stature and that steps are already being taken to ensure the team will be better suited for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

“This is the second season we’ve started on the back foot though and we’re under no illusion that this is not acceptable for our team. We’ve got a few days to regroup and improve ahead of Saudi; we will work together to try and make sure the next race is a better one than this weekend.

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