The German outfit’s suffering has reached its peak of the season so far at Imola , where neither Lewis Hamilton nor George Russell were in the top ten in qualifying.
Neither made much progress in the sprint race either and risk leaving the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix without a point.
The fact that Mercedes has not progressed or come close to Ferrari and Red Bull this season, as it still does not understand how to unlock the potential it believes is in its car, has already led some to suggest that it may be time to go beyond.
That is to say, there are already those who advise them to abandon their efforts to improve the Mercedes W13 to focus soon on the car of 2023, or throw in the towel and start work on a completely new single-seater concept as soon as possible.
Team principal Toto Wolff insists that time has not yet come, as he remains confident that his team will finally get to the bottom of the issue that is causing his car to not show what is expected of it on track.
“I think we know that if we could unlock the potential that is within the car we would get much, much closer,” he said. “But at the moment, we don’t have the key.”
Mercedes will bring to the Spanish Grand Prix a series of updates that it hopes will improve airflow to the ground to help minimize the porpoising that is still holding them back.
Wolff continued, “I think everything good and bad mostly happens on the flat bottom as it is right now.”
George Russell, Mercedes W13
“We have interesting ideas and concepts that we are testing and analyzing, which have to end up in the car in the next few races.”
When asked if there were any doubts about the Mercedes concept, for example about those nearly non-existent sidepods, Wolff doesn’t think they have yet to abandon everything they’ve done and start from a blank slate to work on the future W14.
“I would say no, it’s not that the concept is wrong,” he said. “But is there a part of what we’ve done that just doesn’t work with these rules, and what is it?”
“You don’t need to take away what’s good about the car. You can keep it. But if there are key areas that don’t allow us to unlock the potential that we think is in the car, then obviously, yes, you need to minimize your losses.”
Those words from Wolff about stemming the loss bleed is perhaps the closest thing to admitting that some things haven’t been done right, but he insists that point can’t come until the team knows exactly where the problems are.
Asked by Motorport.com when that time might come, Wolff said: “It’s pretty definite, because it would mean saying, ‘Okay, where is the baseline now? Is there a new baseline where we can start, where we think we can start? unlock more potential?
“And if we had thought of that at any point, we would have done it five months ago. We think this is the development direction we need to take.”
“It’s quite a complicated exercise to do and say because before we make such a decision, we have to continue to find out what it is, because only then will you be able to say, ‘Okay, let’s reduce this bloodletting and move to next year.'”
“That you can do if you understand where you went wrong, and at the moment we just don’t know. Not yet.”