Formula One

Toto Wolff: “There are going to be some fundamental design changes for next year”

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Photo by Hoch Zwei / Icon Sport

Toto Wolff spoke to reporters during the Canadian Grand Prix regarding car development during this year and the next one, a crucial subject in the context of the world championship.

Mercedes, coming off the back of seven constructors’ titles up to 2021, struggled with the regulation changes implemented at the start of last season and clearly fell behind Red Bull. Although a win from George Russell in Brazil towards the end of the season showed promise for this one, things did not go well in the first few races. The team’s radical design, especially around the sidepod area, drew the attention of other teams and the fans alike.

However, issues in performance were clear to see from the start. The behaviour of the car was inconsistent through the different tracks and conditions at the start of the year and the team was struggling to find the root cause of its problems. A big upgrade package was introduced in Monaco and since then Mercedes achieved a double podium in Barcelona, as well as another in Canada, with Lewis Hamilton finishing third, despite struggling in slower corners.

Toto Wolff on car development

Speaking to Sky Sports, Toto Wolff spoke on future upgrades and how these will be managed with the cost cap in place:

We have set up a huge organisation in our financial department of 46 people, that monitors the cost cap down to the last screw. We look at that trend of our spend during all of the year and what we’ve done is basically allocate resource to various projects.

We’ve stayed below that line all year last year, and we’re still below that line this year and that is considering a normal development switch for next year. This is still pretty much on track. The good thing is that we are constantly learning about what the car is doing.

There are going to be some fundamental design changes for next year, but it’s not that we’re building stuff. It’s more like what are we simulating? That is not measured in money, or teraflops or wind tunnel hours.

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Photo by DeFodi Images / Icon Sport

What do these statements mean for this year?

The fact Mercedes is looking towards fundamental design changes for next season does not bode well for this season. With no more major changes in the regulations for next season, the next car could either be a continuation of the current approach or a different one. With Mercedes opting for the latter, the current project will likely be abandoned with the focus and resources switching to the new one.

This will likely result in Mercedes falling back, as the other teams will be bringing upgrades over the course of the season. Other teams like Red Bull and Aston Martin are happy with their development and they could bring more upgrades since they are more likely to maintain their current design philosophies in 2024.

Of course, there is the possibility of Mercedes bringing more upgrades to the W14, while going to a different direction with the W15. But that comes to a cost, as Wolff elaborated on. Formula 1 teams have three main limitations when it comes to car development: the cost cap, CFD hours and wind tunnel hours. The first concerns the money they can spend over a season, the second limits how many hours of computational aerodynamic simulations each team can use and the third controls how much time can be spent in aerodynamic wind tunnel testing, based on the constructors’ championship position. So, it would likely elect to utilize the time, hours and effort in developing the 2024 machinery, as next season approaches.

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