Wolff ‘not sure at all’ if Lewis Hamilton can return to Verstappen duel

Toto Wolff admitted that Mercedes catching Red Bull could be difficult and, surprisingly, insists he feels the team is never “good enough”, despite winning seven straight double titles between 2014 and 2020. Silver Arrows finished third in the 2022 Constructors’ Championship. Championship and winless Lewis Hamilton endured his worst season in Formula One and far behind champion Max Verstappen.

A 10 per cent reduction in the wind tunnel for Red Bull due to its breach of the cost cap has provided some hope that Mercedes could enjoy a much better 2023 season. Hamilton finished sixth in the Drivers’ Championship, but improved as the season progressed, with plenty of momentum for the next year.

However, Wolff has stated that he is not confident that Mercedes can keep up with Red Bull and world champion Verstappen next season. He pointed to the strong competition on the grid as a reason for his lack of confidence.

“I never have confidence. I’m a glass half empty guy and I never think the job we’re doing is good enough,” the Austrian told reporters.

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“I’m not sure if we can recover to a position where we are competing for championships, because you have to recognize that the competition is strong. But we will do everything in our power, everything, to set our goals high and try to achieve them.”

The sporting regulations state that Red Bull, as constructors’ champions, should have been allowed 70 per cent of the entire race in the wind tunnel, which equates to 224 races. But Red Bull’s reductions mean they will now only get 63 per cent of the allocation and a total of 202 races.

This means that Mercedes could have around 27 per cent more wind tunnel allocation and wind tunnel runs. But Wolff believes that a cost cap could make it difficult to recover.

The Mercedes boss continued: “I think it’s more difficult because you can’t really invest more so that the result comes faster. But I think how the aero regulations are designed and the penalty they’ve received, it’s 25 per cent less wind tunnel and that can have an effect.

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“The way the regulations have been set up, the ATR restrictions, means that there are teams that are further back and can really make a big leap compared to those that were first.

“That is also the reason why we will see much closer championships in the future because if you are last, you will have 40 percent more. So, clearly that is an advantage that you should use. Is it a fact that we can use it? Who knows?

“They [Red Bull] they are a brilliant racing team. It will give them extra motivation and against Ferrari, it’s seven percent. But these are marginal games and we have been a bit closer to Ferrari in the last quarter of the season.”

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