The 2023 Formula 1 season kicks off in earnest this weekend, with the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. Ahead of the first race of the season, Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff set the stage for the year ahead, outlining how he and the rest of the team is “relishing” the challenges this year.
“[W]e are confident we have got a car we can work with and are in a stronger position than 12 months ago,” Wolff said in a statement released to the media, including SB Nation, ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix. “More importantly, we are relishing the challenge. This championship will be fought over 23 race weekends, and each one will give us an opportunity to improve.”
Wolff also acknowledged the struggles that Mercedes endured both last season, and during pre-season testing. A year ago, the team struggled under the new aerodynamic regulations, as the team’s W13 dealt with balancing and porpoising issues in the early part of the schedule. That put the Silver Arrows in a big hold at the start of the year.
Mercedes was able to solve those issues later in the season, allowing them to push up the table by year’s end. Still, in Wolff’s words, they were behind entering pre-season testing this year, and are still trying to catch up. “It’s always hard to have a clear picture of competitiveness at pre-season testing – and even more so with only three days of data available,” Wolff said to the media. “Our expectations were that we would likely be playing catch-up to the front, based on how last year ended. That seems to be the case so far but we will only know for sure after this weekend.”
The team boss also addressed some of the issues that Mercedes faced a week ago. During the second day of testing George Russell’s session was cut short early when the W14, their challenger for this season, suffered a hydraulic failure. “We didn’t have the smoothest winter test in Bahrain. We had some reliability problems and struggled with the car set-up on day two. But the key objective was to learn about the car, and we did lots of learning. We made good progress on the final day, which gave us directions to work on in the short period between the test and this weekend’s race.”
In the off-season, Wolff outlined how struggles at Mercedes were often the days their competitors would grow to regret, as he and the rest of the Silver Arrows would learn from those mistakes. If that is indeed the case, Mercedes’ competitors might learn that this weekend, when the lap times count for real.