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Wolff: Mercedes F1 car revamp under cost cap a "painful process"

Toto Wolff has detailed why it is such a "painful process" for Mercedes to claw its way back to the front under the restrictions of Formula 1's cost cap.

Mick Schumacher, Reserve Driver, Mercedes-AMG, with Jerome d'Ambrosio, Driver Development Director, Mercedes-AMG, Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Mick Schumacher, Reserve Driver, Mercedes-AMG, with Jerome d'Ambrosio, Driver Development Director, Mercedes-AMG, Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

After missing its performance targets for the start of the 2023 F1 season and falling further behind to Red Bull, Mercedes made the drastic decision to change its W14 car's layout.

A new floor and sidepod concept, as well as a suspension re-design, are being readied in time for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola later this month.

Under F1's restrictive budget cap, set at a base limit of $135m excluding allowances for additional races beyond 21, sprint weekends as well as inflation adjustments, such wholesale changes have been challenging to make.

The Brackley squad can no longer throw infinite resources at a project to turn the tide during a disappointing season.

That exacting process also comes with complex cost analysis and administration that team principal Wolff has called a "painful process".

"The cost cap gives so many constraints," he said.

"In the past, we wouldn't even know what a front suspension costs and today we need to take the purchase price of the aluminium and then factor in how much the machining of it costs, how much do you need to write off from the aluminium that you don't need, price out every bolt that goes into the suspension, the carbon that you bought as the raw material then cut it and put it on...

"What is the energy cost of the composite room, the overhead that goes into it, and at the end comes out the product.

"This is super complex and it's gone so far that we have cost analysts, engineers, that need to decide whether buying that kilogram of aluminium is worth the performance gain on the other side.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

"That process is so difficult and painful; people that should be creative only and have carte blanche, they can't do it because somebody is telling them whether it's feasible in the cost cap or not.

"And that's why it's so important that everybody adheres to the cost cap. If you're overshooting, every 10,000 matters."

Wolff admitted that Mercedes would have wanted to bring an entirely new chassis and "double the amount of upgrades" if it had been free to do so, although he remains a big supporter of the cost cap.

"We are more stuck than before because, if we were completely free, we would bring a different chassis," he said.

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"So, what we have to really decide carefully is what is it we want to upgrade. We're bringing a new front suspension to Imola and the aero upgrade that comes with it and floor.

"But if we were free, we'd probably bring double the amount of upgrades.

"Again, I think the cost cap was necessary in Formula 1 and if you tell me cost cap yes or no, I'll take it every single day of the week. It's important to make the sport sustainable, but we need to adapt."

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