Toto Wolff insists Mercedes car can massively improve soon despite dreadful start to 2022 F1 season

Toto Wolff is managing the Mercedes team through its most difficult period in a decade. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff insists the team’s toiling W13 car has the potential to improve significantly in the near future despite a very poor start to the 2022 Formula 1 campaign, but has warned that team may face financial implications if it needs to completely revamp its design in a bid to avoid porpoising.

Ferrari and Red Bull are this season’s early frontrunners, having taken a pair of victories each in the opening four rounds of the year. They look set to compete for both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships, with the Silver Arrows way off the pace behind them.

The Brackley-based squad have built the fastest car on the grid every year since 2014, but have struggled significantly with the transition to Formula 1’s new era of technical regulations, which have brought about the return of ground effect aerodynamics for the first time since the 1980s and forced all ten teams to completely re-design their machinery from scratch.


Changes were made by governing body the FIA in an attempt to allow cars to follow one another more closely and for drivers to race each other harder. So far, the changes seem to be having the desired effect, with Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen engaging in thrilling tactical tussles for the lead in all four of the opening rounds.

But the aerodynamic shift has brought with it a peculiar quirk known as ‘porpoising’, which sees cars bouncing violently up and down when travelling at high speeds due to the balance of air beneath the floor shifting forwards and backwards. While some teams have managed to resolve or mitigate the issue, Mercedes’ W13 car is suffering worse than most, and is simply slower through the corners than Ferrari and Red Bull’s concepts.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton ruled out any possibility of winning the 2022 title after finishing a lowly 13th at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, in which he was unable to pass the likes of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll in theoretically quicker machinery.

Wolff, though, says that the team isn’t giving up just yet, and says that ‘aerodynamic goodness’ which exists in the car needs to be unlocked.

‘We very much believe that the science that we’re putting in at the moment will help us to, in effect, run the car lower, where we believe we have all the aerodynamic goodness, the Austrian explained. ‘We haven’t been able to unlock that because of the [porpoising] of the car. If we are able to finally get on top of that, that means there’s quite some lap time we can find.’

Wolff did temper his optimism about the potential speed increase with a warning that the team could be required to start from scratch if the porpoising issue proves impossible to remedy with the current concept. A total overhaul would have significant cost cap implications for the team, however, with all F1 teams limited to an annual overall budget of $140m.

Lewis Hamilton is unable to challenge for race victories in Mercedes’ W13. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

‘If not, we need to have another idea. If we don’t get on top of [the porpoising], then there is a more conventional development path that we have not yet taken,’ Wolff added.

‘I want to give us the time to really properly take such a decision. We haven’t changed the concept [yet]. If you were to do something else, that could potentially go against your cost cap.’

The fifth round of the 2022 F1 season takes place in Florida, with the inaugural Miami Grand Prix set for the weekend of 6-8 May.

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