Wolff: Mercedes “losing all the lap time at high speed” during F1 Saudi Arabian GP weekend

Photo Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team
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Team principal Toto Wolff admitted Mercedes is grappling with a “fundamental” problem that’s costing them lap time, particularly “at high speed.”

Mercedes was hoping to bounce back after facing performance-dampening overheating issues at the season opener in Bahrain—but it was another mediocre outing for the Brackley-based team, this time under the lights in Jeddah, as George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished sixth and ninth respectively. Afterwards, Hamilton lamented a general lack of performance in high-speed corners. 

“I think there is a bigger factor with a lack in high speed than just a rear wing,” Wolff told the media. 

“We are missing downforce beyond the steps that you would have with a bigger rear wing. We tried it with Lewis.

“There is something which we don’t understand,” he continued. “We are quick everywhere else pretty much.

 “We know that we have a smaller rear wing, we’re compensating what we’re losing through the corners. But it’s just at high-speed where we’re losing all the lap time.”

According to Wolff, whatever is hampering the W15’s performance extends beyond setup issues.

“I think that’s a biggie,” he said. “There’s only so much you can tune here.

“Our simulations point us in a direction and this is the kind of setup range that we then choose, where you put the right rear wing on.

“I think you’ll gain a few tenths or not if you get the setup right or wrong, but there’s not a massive corridor of performance. It’s more a fundamental thing, that we believe that the speed should be there. We measure the downforce but we don’t find it in lap time.”

Mercedes hasn’t won a race since Russell’s maiden victory in São Paulo in 2022. Issues stemming from a flawed car design philosophy saw the team slip behind the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari in the current ground effect era. 

Despite the setbacks, Wolff remains confident that the team is in a better position now and is determined to swiftly identify and rectify the underlying problems, vowing to unlock performance by round three in Melbourne later this month.

“It’s been two years that there is something we need to spot, and that’s the thing to unlock,” he said. “We have just got to work.

“It’s not by a lack of trying. We’ve pushed so hard and we’re going to give it a massive, massive go now in the next week, with more data to understand and come back to Melbourne stronger. 

“We are on a mission on this one. And I am 100% sure that we are going to unlock that performance gap.”