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Mercedes: Not realistic to be beating Red Bull this F1 season

Mercedes says it is not realistic to believe it can close down the gap to Formula 1 rival Red Bull this season, but insists that will not stop it trying. 

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Red Bull has started the 2023 season in truly dominant form, with its RB19 appearing to be around one second per lap quicker than the rest of the field in race trim. 

While Red Bull has played down talk that it is a shoe-in for the F1 title this year, rivals are not anticipating being able to slash its advantage in the short-term. 

PLUS: Why Red Bull’s biggest F1 adversary is now itself

Mercedes is undertaking a massive revamp of its W14 to try to turn around a disappointing start to the year, and accepts that it could take many months before it can start threatening Red Bull. 

Asked by Autosport if the large gap to Red Bull made it realistic to believe it could catch up in 2023, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: “We’re just two races in this year, but is it realistic when we look at the gaps? No, it’s not. 

“But, we just want to give it all we have and then see what the outcome of that is.

“We’ve been able to catch up a lot last year with a car that was bouncing way too much, and that in a way was overshadowing everything.  

PLUS: How a "baked in" F1 flaw consigned Mercedes to a year of recovery

“Finally we won a race and got closer to them, and I think that needs to be the aspiration.” 

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Mercedes is planning a change of concept for its car, moving away from the zeropod design that it hoped would be good enough to get itself to the front of the grid. 

The first major update is being planned for around the time of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola in May, with further upgrades planned for later in the season. 

Wolff suggested that it could take up to a year before Mercedes finally has in place a complete package that can take on Red Bull equally. 

“I think the length [of time] is probably between six and 12 months, because that’s the time that it really took for us [last year] to figure out what was actually happening with the car,” he said. 

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“That means we just need to have double the development speed, so a stronger development slope.

“The logic and rational speaks that for Red Bull, their gains are going to be incrementally smaller if the concept is mature.  

“I think aero wise, and with wind tunnel time, that can help a bit but not hugely.

“It's just, we’ve just got to get our act together and, if we fundamentally understand where we need to put the car, then the steps are going to be large. But we need to be perfect.” 

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