Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was happy with how the W14 performed on the first morning of pre-season testing in Bahrain; watch testing live on Sky Sports from Thursday through to Saturday
Last Updated: 23/02/23 2:36pm
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff says his team’s 2023 car has “no bouncing” issues and their first impressions of the W14 at pre-season testing are “very different” to its predecessor.
Mercedes saw an eight-year streak of constructors’ titles end last year as their 2022 campaign was plagued by unforeseen bouncing problems with their W13, following the introduction of radical new design regulations.
After winning just one race and finishing third in the standings behind Red Bull and Ferrari, Mercedes’ hopes of returning to title contention took their first significant steps on Thursday as pre-season testing began in Bahrain.
George Russell finished fifth on the timesheet for Mercedes in the opening session, but speaking before Lewis Hamilton drove the car in the second session, Wolff appeared satisfied with his team’s start.
“George was generally happy with the car,” Wolff said. “It seems to be balanced in the right way.
“There’s no bouncing, which is good news, apart from the big bump at the end of the straight.
“[It’s] 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.”
Asked how the experience compared to last year’s first runs, Wolff added: “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.
“I think we have a solid base now to work from and try to optimise the car, which we haven’t done yet. It’s really just finding out how the aerodynamics could cause real performance hindrance like last year with the bouncing.”
Horner: Sensible start for Red Bull
Reigning world champion Max Verstappen topped a familiar-looking morning timesheet from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, as the Dutchman impressed in a Red Bull car that was only revealed for the first time shortly before testing got under way on Thursday.
There were no major surprises on the RB19, with many of the key design features from its dominant predecessor visible once more.
“It’s been a sensible first session for us, I think focused on learning a little bit about RB19, which is very much an evolution from the RB18,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said.
“[We got] plenty of mileage and some good feedback.
“We’re working to a programme, making setup changes and seeing what they do, so a relatively straightforward first session.”
Despite coming into the season as favourites, Red Bull are facing a reduced amount of wind-tunnel testing time, which comes as a result of both their first-place finish and punishment for breaching the sport’s cost cap in 2021.
Horner told Sky Sports News: “We have the handicap for lack of wind-tunnel time but as a team, I think the technical team over the winter have done a great job and we’ve just got to be very selective and efficient in the way we apply our testing.
“For sure, it’s not an advantage going into the season but it’s a long year. I’m sure our rivals are going to be very competitive this year.”