Mercedes given faith for 2024 F1 leap by Aston Martin/McLaren progress

Mercedes has endured a challenging campaign, where the progress it had hoped to make with its W14 failed to materialise as it has found itself on the back foot against Red Bull.

It realised quite soon in the season that it had got its overall car concept wrong and had aimed to run its aero platform too high, which gave away too much performance compared to rivals who are running much closer to the ground.

The squad believes that a fundamental overhaul of its approach for 2024 will pay dividends and finally allow Lewis Hamilton and George Russell to fight pace-setter Red Bull on equal terms.

However, the scale of the task looks immense with Red Bull absolutely dominant with its benchmark RB19 car that has won every race so far this F1 season.

Red Bull is also likely to have been able to make an early start on the development of its RB20 since it has enjoyed a comfortable advantage throughout the current campaign, which means it has not needed to introduce a run of major developments.

F1’s history book shows that dominant teams can maintain their edge for years, with it often only being regulation changes that bring about a shake-up in order – as happened with the 2021 floor changes that hurt Mercedes and helped Red Bull.

So, with the rules staying static into 2024, that makes it a super tough ask to expect Red Bull’s rivals to be able to catch up.

But Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff thinks that the current generation of cars have shown that once squads get on top of what’s needed that a dramatic change in fortunes can happen.

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Michael Potts / Motorsport Images

He believes the examples of Aston Martin, which made a significant jump over the winter, and McLaren, which transformed its pace over the course of the 2023 campaign, are proof of what is possible and why Mercedes can challenge Red Bull next year.

“I think where we are, we just need a step that McLaren and Aston Martin have achieved in one go,” he said when asked by if it was realistic to expect the gap to the front to be gone by 2024.

“It is not making a two tenths update, but a five tenths update and then you’re back in the game. So yeah, I think it’s possible.”

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Mercedes has a better grip now on the car concepts that are needed to be successful in the new ground effect era, and Wolff said there were many changes being made to the W15 design.

However, he admitted that Mercedes did not have all the answers needed and was still exploring a lot of avenues to work out the best development path.

“I think we have a few directions,” he explained. “If we would know it would be much easier, but the car is just very unpredictable and lacks grip. So, there are plenty of things that you need to tackle.

“We tend to believe in F1 that there’s a silver bullet that’s going to unlock everything. I think we just need to put components together to make them work together in the car. There’s not one topic that I would call out.”

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