Mercedes are set to go through an entire F1 season without a grand prix victory – the first time it has happened since 2011.
Mercedes’ troubles started when they encountered severe porpoising in pre-season testing, which they couldn’t rectify for the first half of the year.
Even though they’ve managed to get on top of it, closing the cap to Red Bull and Ferrari has been a mammoth task.
There has been some debate about whether their ‘no sidepod’ design is a contributing factor to their lack of relative performance, with the W13 being notoriously draggy and thus slow in a straight-line.
Speaking after Lewis Hamilton’s P2 finish at the United States Grand Prix, Wolff explained to Sky the one single decision that cost the team this year.
“I think we understand more now what it was where we got it wrong with the car. We can almost trace it back to a single decision last October.
“We thought we could run the car on the deck but we can’t. It’s small little hamster steps and as long as the trajectory is going up, even with little backsteps, we are on a good path.”
Hamilton was unable to resist eventual race winner Max Verstappen on race day in Austin, with the Dutchman enjoying a 35kph overspeed when making the overtake on Lap 50.
Mercedes trackside engineering chief Andrew Shovlin admitted that reducing the drag levels is crucial in aiding the team’s chances in F1 2023.
Reflecting on Suzuka, he said: “As it happens, the DRS was never enabled, and that meant that overtaking was very, very hard and perhaps the right decision would have been a lower downforce setting.
“But fundamentally, one of the things that we need to improve on the car for next year is to get the car to have more downforce at the lower drag levels and then we can race those lighter wings and still be competitive in the corners.”
Technical director Mike Elliott expanded on Mercedes’ issues, conceding that the porpoising problem impacted how effectively it could improve the W13.
“The issues we’ve built into the car we couldn’t see because of the bouncing,” he added. “We thought ‘we’re in, we’re going in the right direction’, and then got a proper kick in the teeth. You peel the next layer off the onion, if you like, and you’ve got another problem that was the one we’d really baked into the car in the winter.”