The first day of pre-season testing is always critical in Formula 1, but as Toto Wolff explains – Mercedes is a team with an especially long list of questions to answer in Bahrain.
A combination of several factors – including porpoising – prevented Mercedes from maximizing their package and competing for the Championship last season.
Whilst the Silver Arrows made reasonable progress throughout the year, it is still unclear if they make the necessary step to challenge Red Bull in 2023.
Mercedes has not abandoned the ‘zero sidepod’ concept that has distinguished them in these regulations, although some significant alterations are visible on the W14.
After struggling with correlation problems last season, key personnel at Mercedes have advised caution ahead of the 2023 season, aware that progression is not guaranteed.
However, as quoted by Sky Sports, Toto Wolff has explained that the first day of testing was successful for the team:
“There’s no bouncing, which is good news, apart from the big bump at the end of the straight.
“A good starting point – we’re gathering a lot of data because it’s important to correlate, obviously after last year, and trying different things. So a productive first morning.
“[Last year] we knew we were in trouble because the car was just bouncing around, and we really weren’t able to drive it correctly, so that is very different [with the W14].
“I think we have a solid base now to work from.”
These quotes are encouraging for Mercedes, especially given that eliminating porpoising as an issue was never a guarantee.
Not only did porpoising impact the team’s performance last season, but it diverted resources that could have been allocated elsewhere into solving this issue.
Red Bull was extremely impressive on the first day of Bahrain Testing, completing an impressive 157 laps and topping the timing sheets.
Whilst laptimes are not critical at this stage, there are certainly more question marks surrounding the Mercedes concept than Red Bull’s
This is why Mercedes must continue running through their programs in testing to ensure they can fully understand the potential of their design.
Like any team, Mercedes would love nothing more than to take victory in round one and begin their 2023 F1 campaign in a dominant fashion.
However, in many ways, this is a secondary objective for the team.
For the Brackley-based team, establishing that the W14 can be a good foundation to build upon will be essential.
Not only will this have implications for 2023 but also for the remainder of these regulations.
Toto Wolff’s comments are positive for Mercedes, but plenty of work still lies ahead.