Mercedes has long since decided to ditch its ‘size-zero’ sidepod car architecture for the 2024 season, for which it will converge around the downwash solution used by the rest of the grid.
This will leave the eight-time constructors’ champion to play catch-up to Red Bull, which has already had two seasons to develop its own optimum take on the ground-effects regulations.
Despite its main rival enjoying a head start, Mercedes motorsport boss Wolff says his team cannot “give up” on its recovery plan – having finished second for two years running – by instead effectively writing off the 2024 and 2025 seasons until the F1 rules undergo a major change.
Speaking exclusively to Autosport, the Austrian said: “I don’t want to give up on the recovery and say, ‘Well, let’s wait for 2026, new car, new engine’.
“There is two more important years to go. I want to see it as a testament for the strengths of the team that we are capable to recover and race for championships. That’s our clear objective.”
For 2026, the engines will ditch the expensive and complex Motor Generator Unit – Heat.
Also, the output of the electrified part of the hybrid powertrain will nearly triple to 350kW to create an equal power split with the 1.6-litre turbocharged internal combustion engine.
For the chassis overhaul, both front and rear wings will become active, the wheel rim size will drop from 18 to 16 inches and the cars will be shorter, narrower and up to 50kg lighter.
Photo by: Michael Potts / Motorsport Images
Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG
But Wolff warns that the odds are potentially slim for Mercedes getting back to the top before these major rule changes work to level the playing field.
He continued: “Looking at the odds, very difficult. Looking at performances of other teams, how Aston Martin has done over the winter [from 2022 into 2023], McLaren recovered a second with an upgrade they expected to come in at 0.25 seconds… There is a sweet spot that you need to find and that unlocks more potential.
“I think the biggest contributor is that the drivers start to have a car that they can trust, which they can’t at the moment [with the outgoing Mercedes W14].”
Lewis Hamilton has, more recently, been similarly reserved about Mercedes’ immediate chances, saying: “I do believe we have a North Star now, which I don’t think we’ve had for two years. But still getting there is not a straight line…
“I think we understand the car so much better. We have developed great tools in the background. So naturally, I’m hopeful [for 2024], but I’m not going to hold my breath.”