09 July 2023

Toto Wolff: Mercedes will soon have ‘no choice’ but to switch focus to next year

09 July 2023

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admits the team will soon have no choice but to give up on the development of this season’s car and focus on next year.

Lewis Hamilton claimed a third-placed finish at the British Grand Prix, but was beaten to second by Lando Norris and was well adrift of challenging Max Verstappen – who extended his title lead to 99 points in pursuit of a hat-trick of world championships.

Hamilton was unable to pass McLaren’s Norris following the safety car restart despite being on theoretically faster tyres in the closing stages and the seven-time world champion remains fourth in the drivers’ standings – a whopping 124 points behind Verstappen.

Wolff knows they can not do anything to stop Verstappen and his dominant Red Bull and therefore says the time will soon come to switch focus to next season.

“I think pretty soon,” Wolff said when asked when that time would come. “We have no choice. P2, P3 fundamentally doesn’t impact me and the team.

“It is about coming back to being able to win a world championship.

“That’s not going to happen this year so we need to set our eyes on next year and we will see with all the races to come how we can learn and develop and make sure that we can carry that forward into next year.

“Having said that, the regulations are the same so we are not learning nothing by continuing with this car. So there is a balance to strike.”

The safety car, which was deployed on lap 33, massively benefitted Hamilton, who was able to get a free pit-stop and retain third place after a raft of drivers had already pitted.

With Hamilton, who started seventh, on soft tyres and Norris on hard tyres, it was expected the McLaren man would be a sitting duck but he was able to resist the advances of the Mercedes to clinch a brilliant second place.

It was the same story behind, where Norris’ team-mate Oscar Piastri comfortably held George Russell at bay to clinch fourth.

Wolff chose to view McLaren’s enormous progress in the last two races as a positive that they can achieve similar, but expected his drivers to be able to secure a double-podium finish.

“To be honest, when the safety car was deployed, I was pretty sure, if not convinced, that we would be eating up the McLarens and finish with a P2 and P3 and maybe even challenge at the front,” Wolff added.

“You see just how strong their car was. They both raced very strong. Their top speed through the corners and the straights, there was no way of passing them. That came as a surprise.

“McLaren were not competitive at the beginning of the season and it is good to see because it shows if you make the right decisions, the car can jump up by a huge amount.

“Do I believe we have upgrades which will fundamentally change the car? I don’t believe so but we have a few small steps to come and we can see if you find a tenth or two or three you can move up the grid.

“Fundamentally I don’t care whether we finish second or third. It is about finding our way back to fighting for victories and the world championship.

“To see that the car has potential fundamentally, all eyes are on the big prize. It is exciting to see that the McLaren was able to find a second in performance.”

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