Have Mercedes given up on W14 car concept too soon?

Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff has urged his team to remain “rational” following a strong performance in Australian Grand Prix qualifying. 
Have Mercedes given up on W14 car concept too soon?

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton secured an unexpected second and third behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen as Mercedes produced their most competitive qualifying display of the season in Melbourne. 


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Verstappen edged Russell to pole position by 0.236s with Hamilton winding up 0.136s further adrift in third. 

It follows a torrid start to 2023 in which Mercedes have been blown away by Red Bull and beaten by customer team Aston Martin at the opening two rounds in Bahrain and Saudi Arabian. 

Mercedes’ poor performance in the first qualifying session of the season had prompted Wolff to declare that the team would need to change their car concept in order to get back to the front. 

The eight-time constructors’ champions have already started the process of redesigning their car and Wolff stressed the team need to keep sight of the bigger picture, despite their much-improved display in Australia. 

“This is exactly the swings that we must avoid,” Wolff said when asked whether he stood by the early decision to switch concepts. 

Have Mercedes given up on W14 car concept too soon?

"Because obviously you're delivering such a good qualifying today and it swings into exuberance, and [if overreacting] we’re like, ‘okay everything we've thought was the wrong thing, let's continue to develop the car’. 

“And then when the next bad result you think it the other way around.

"We have never had any dogma on what the car needs to look like. We know exactly where we got it wrong.

"We also know there's some goodness in the car, especially if we put every step over a weekend right and we are able to extract what's in the car. You can see that.”

Mercedes’ qualifying performance in Australia led Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso to accuse the team of exaggerating their lack of pace

Wolff insisted the result was beyond Mercedes’ expectations coming into the weekend. 

Have Mercedes given up on W14 car concept too soon?

"I could play it coolly and say well, that is all like we expected it - but it's not,” he explained. “I think what you need to love in this sport is that with all the lows you have, you also have some highs.

"And obviously it's not where we want to be. We want to challenge all the way to the front, but finishing P2/P3 was definitely much more than we expected coming into this weekend.

“I think it was just a brilliant job done by the team here in extracting the maximum out of the car. We did a great job on the tyres. And the two drivers have delivered.

“You can see on the onboard that the car is still edgy to drive, it’s not as easy as you see with the Aston Martin or with the Red Bull.

“They are balancing the car on the razor’s edge and were able to extract that today.”

Have Mercedes given up on W14 car concept too soon?

But Wolff cautioned the need for his team to stay realistic and avoid getting carried away with one good result.  

"I think we need to be careful not to oscillate between mania and depression, but keep the thinking rational,” he said. 

"And what we've seen today is that there's a lot of potential unlocking within the car, that's clear, but we need to take the right decisions for the long term.

"And in that respect, we will continue to race the best possible package that we have. And whether that has a narrow body or wide body is irrelevant. We just need to have more downforce in the sweet spot of the car."

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