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Toto Wolff

Wolff: 'Exciting' prospect lured Mercedes down wrong path

Toto Wolff believes Mercedes were lured down the wrong path by "exciting" possibilities with the 2022 F1 technical regulations.

Hamilton Abu Dhabi
To news overview © RN365/Michael Potts

Toto Wolff says his Mercedes Formula 1 team were lured into the "exciting" possibilities of floor development in 2022, which proved to be the major factor behind their drop in performance.

After the technical rules were revamped for 2022, ground effects were re-introduced into F1 for the first time since the 1970s, with Mercedes among those teams expected to fight for the championship, having won 15 of the previous 16 on offer.

In order for the breed of car to produce downforce, it needs to be run as close to the ground as is possible to generate performance.

However, a side effect of ground effects is porpoising, where the car gets so low that it bottoms out and loses aerodynamic grip before the airflow reattaches and creates downforce once again. It is this up and down motion which so badly affected cars during pre-season testing.

Mercedes have revealed that a single decision taken in regards to the floor in October 2021 was the root cause behind their slump to third in the Constructors' Championship, as Wolff has revealed how the team were enticed down the wrong path.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Wolff explains Mercedes 2022 problems

"I remember that we were discussing it in October [2021] how exciting it was to find performance through the floor," Wolff explained while in discussion with Mercedes Technical Director Mike Elliott and power unit boss Hywel Thomas during a team review video.

"The real trick was how low can we actually get the car. And I guess that sent us off to the wrong trajectory.

"It was an interesting journey because obviously we had a massively successful run of eight consecutive championships, and we knew the day would come where it is going to be difficult [to win again].

"But coming out not understanding what was happening [with the car] with some of our competitors [having] understood or having a high-performing car was particularly difficult.

"It took us so many months to filter out and say: 'This is what the fundamental problem is,' and it cost us the season in effect."

Mercedes 'pushed too far'

Wolff's thoughts were echoed by Elliott, who felt that the team had pushed "too far" with their interpretation of the rules.

"The aerodynamics of these cars are such that they want to run really low to the ground, and what we were finding in the [wind] tunnel was huge gains with the car operating in that way," explained Elliott.

"When you look back at the season in hindsight, we pushed too hard in that direction and I think we've learned a lot as a result of that.

"Any normal season up to now you've been able to look at what comes out of Hywel's world and the power unit, what comes out of the wind tunnel and also out of our simulation and know where you are going to be with the car and, normally, we start the season with a pretty good understanding of where our performance is going to be relative to the previous car.

"Obviously, you don't know what your competitors are going to do but you know where you are going to be, and I think this is the first season I can remember in a long time where we started with a problem we didn’t predict."

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