Mercedes is set to abandon its unique ‘size-zero’ sidepod design in favor of a more common downwash approach for the 2024 season, aligning with what other teams on the grid are employing.
This strategic pivot means Mercedes, the eight-time constructors’ champion, must now work to bridge the gap to Red Bull, which has been refining its approach to the current ground-effects rules for two seasons.
Toto Wolff, the head of Mercedes’ motorsport division, is adamant about not surrendering to the challenges despite trailing behind its key competitor, Red Bull. Instead of dismissing the 2024 and 2025 seasons in anticipation of the upcoming major changes in F1 regulations, Wolff is committed to Mercedes’ resurgence. In an exclusive interview with F1 Flow.com, the Austrian executive stated, “I refuse to put our recovery on hold and just wait for 2026 with a new car and engine. The next two years are crucial. I see this period as a testament to our team’s strength, our ability to bounce back, and our ambition to compete for championships. This is our definitive goal.”
Looking ahead to 2026, the F1 engines will undergo significant modifications. The complex and costly Motor Generator Unit – Heat will be discarded, and the power contribution from the hybrid portion of the engine will be substantially increased to 350kW. This change aims for an equal power distribution between the hybrid system and the 1.6-litre turbocharged internal combustion engine. In addition, the cars will see a transformation in their chassis design, featuring active front and rear wings, reduced wheel rim size from 18 to 16 inches, and a more compact, lighter build.
Photo Credit: Michael Potts / Motorsport Images
Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG
However, Wolff acknowledges the steep challenge Mercedes faces in regaining its dominant position before these sweeping rule changes potentially level the playing field. He noted, “Realistically, it’s a tough climb. The progress of teams like Aston Martin and McLaren, who have made significant strides, highlights the challenge. Finding that ‘sweet spot’ that unlocks a car’s full potential is key. A critical factor is providing our drivers with a car they can fully trust, which hasn’t been the case with our outgoing W14 model.”
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes’ star driver, shares a cautious optimism regarding the team’s immediate future, commenting, “We now have a clear direction, a North Star, which was missing for the past two years. But the journey there isn’t straightforward. Our understanding of the car has greatly improved, and we’ve developed valuable tools behind the scenes. So, while I’m hopeful about 2024, I’m keeping my expectations in check.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Mercedes F1 Strategy
What is Mercedes’ new strategy for the F1 2024 season?
Mercedes is abandoning its ‘size-zero’ sidepod design and adopting a downwash approach used by other teams, aiming to catch up with Red Bull’s advanced development under the current ground-effects regulations.
How is Toto Wolff approaching Mercedes’ current position in F1?
Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ motorsport boss, insists on not giving up despite being behind Red Bull. He emphasizes the importance of the 2024 and 2025 seasons for the team’s recovery and competition for championships, rather than waiting for the 2026 F1 rules changes.
What changes are expected in the F1 2026 regulations?
In 2026, F1 engines will eliminate the Motor Generator Unit – Heat and increase the hybrid powertrain’s output to 350kW. Additionally, there will be a chassis overhaul, including active wings, smaller wheel rims, and lighter, more compact cars.
What challenges does Wolff acknowledge for Mercedes before the 2026 rules change?
Wolff acknowledges the difficulty of Mercedes returning to the top, especially with the progress made by teams like Aston Martin and McLaren. He highlights the need for finding a performance ‘sweet spot’ and providing drivers with a reliable car.
What is Lewis Hamilton’s outlook on Mercedes’ chances in the immediate future?
Lewis Hamilton expresses a measured optimism for Mercedes. He believes the team now has a clear direction, improved car understanding, and better tools, but he remains realistic about the challenges ahead for the 2024 season.