The German manufacturer is going through its most difficult season in F1’s turbo-hybrid era, with porpoising issues preventing it from unleashing the full potential of the W13 and using it in the configuration for which it was designed.
The rocky start has already left the team on the defensive in the championship, and it knows it needs a quick turnaround if it is to have any chance of battling Ferrari and Red Bull this year.
Following a restructuring of the workforce, which in recent years has seen the departure of engine chief Andy Cowell and technical director James Allison taking on a new role, some believe the team’s decline could be related to the loss of key talent. .
But Wolff does not endorse that stance, acknowledging that the personnel change Mercedes has undergone in recent times is part of the standard rotation that all teams go through.
“It’s just the normal cycle,” he defended. “Ross [Brawn] left, then Paddy [Lowe] left. We won six championships after that, or seven. Then James Allison came in, and there are a lot of others who aren’t front and center. Then Andy [Cowell] he retired”.
“But in the meantime, a lot of young guys have come in and been the decision makers at the operational level over and over again when it comes to cars over the last couple of years.
“We haven’t lost anyone that makes me think, ‘That was very, very counterproductive!’ It was just the normal rate of change for any team.”
While Mercedes may no longer have some of its former experienced geniuses, Wolff believes the injection of youth seen in the team at the moment is very positive.
“When I walk around our campus, what I like the most is that most of the people are very young and highly educated, they are motivated and they don’t want to leave things as they are now,” he added.
“That puts me in a positive frame of mind. I couldn’t imagine anyone better in the team than the squad I have around me. And I don’t say that lightly: it’s what I really believe.”
While hopes of winning the Mercedes world championship seem slim, as there is a fairly large performance gap between his car and the favourites, Wolff is not ready to throw in the towel on titles just yet.
“I don’t want to say goodbye thinking about it,” he said. “What I love about this sport is that not everything always follows the math.”
“Each race can be completely different. You see how quickly you go from being first/second on the track to retiring or falling behind in the next race.”
“In that sense, the distance they’re making now is certainly hard to make up for, but if we can get this car reasonably straight (without porpoising) on the track, then we’ll be up front with this car that looks so bleak now.