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Wolff: Mercedes needed early F1 season shock to be bold with car change

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes his Formula 1 team "needed the shock" of being off the pace at the start of 2023 to push it towards a bold concept change.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523, in the pit lane

Mercedes persisted with its troubled 2022 car concept in the belief that dialling out porpoising would unlock its true potential on the new W14.

But it turned up at Bahrain winter testing further behind Red Bull than it finished 2022, leading to a tough decision to change the concept of its floor, sidepods and suspension mid-season, with the revamped W14 debuting at the Monaco Grand Prix.

It was last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix on the high-downforce Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, however, that provided Mercedes with a more representative sample of whether or not its bold direction change had actually been successful.

And on Sunday Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished second and third respectively to secure a double podium behind runaway winner Max Verstappen, which vindicated the Brackley team's decision to change course.

According to team boss Wolff, Mercedes needed its early season wake-up call of not being competitive to push it towards its new concept.

"I think we just needed the shock at the beginning of the season to understand that this is not going forward, there was not much more performance gain in it," Wolff told Sky Sports F1 after Sunday's result.

"And then that shook it up, and then we push forward. There's lead times, you need to design parts. You need to produce them and the team back at base did a mega job that we have all of that on the car.

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

"I'm very happy for the hard work that has been done in the UK; in Brixworth and in Brackley. We took some decisions to go in another direction, we changed so many parts that we thought may be variables that we don't completely understand.

"It was a risky move, and everybody just pushed forward and we got a good race car."

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Wolff cautioned that Mercedes still has a lot of work ahead to catch up to Red Bull, and that it first needs to confirm its turnaround at the Canadian Grand Prix in two weeks' time as its car was "in a mega window" in Barcelona.

But while Hamilton finished a distant 24 seconds off the dominant Red Bull of Verstappen, Wolff insisted the actual difference was not that great.

"I think it was less. Lewis at the end was cruising, probably it's just around 15 seconds," he added. "And over 66 laps, that's still a lot.

"That's just not where we aim to be. I think we are much closer, but you see where the benchmark is."

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