While Mercedes has declared it’s time to change the concept of its car, Nico Rosberg says it’s a much bigger job than just putting new sidepods on the W14.
Fearing that his deficit for Red Bull has “doubled, if not nearly tripled” this season, Toto Wolff admitted the time had come for Mercedes to make changes to the car’s concept.
“I think we really struggled to make it work, because the data we extrapolated showed us that it works,” admitted the Mercedes team principal. “And we were proved wrong, quite simply.”
Adding that while the team “really put a lot of effort into making it work”, he now says he “doesn’t want, under any circumstances, to run into a one-way street saying, ‘we’re going to make this work no matter what’, Because it does not work. And I don’t want to waste any more time.
But changing the concept of the car is more than putting Red Bull sidepods on the car, it involves “re-evaluating the whole thing”, says Rosberg.
“It’s an incredibly difficult time as we’re seeing it,” the former Mercedes driver told Sky Sports F1.
“But it seems from what he says now, he said it’s a dead end and now we have to make this change, so it seems like they’ve committed to this change, which is incredibly difficult to do.
“First you take a small step back and then you have more potential in the medium term to really take a big step forward.
“It looks like that’s the decision they made, so it will be interesting what they come up with with the different concept.”
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But, as the 2016 F1 champion pointed out, “You can’t just swap the sidepods – ‘Oh, let’s use the sidepod a little more in the Red Bull direction’ – because the rest of the car doesn’t fit anymore.
“It starts at the front and you kind of have to reassess the whole thing, which is a huge job.”
‘Aston Martin’s leap inspired Mercedes’
Rosberg reckons watching Aston Martin improve by two seconds a lap in six months, the progress Wolff noted in Bahrain, has inspired Mercedes to revamp its concept.
The car Aston Martin put on the grid in the opening race of last season was not the car they finished the championship with, the team introduced a Red Bull B-spec car at the Spanish Grand Prix.
This year’s AMR23 continued that trend and bears a striking resemblance to the champion Red Bull RB18.
“I would say that it is Aston Martin’s leap that helped Mercedes in this decision,” said Rosberg, “because if any other team with lesser skills, I would still say, is capable of making such a giant leap following the Red Bull concept. so imagine the leap we can make with our skill.
“And I’m also sure that this is something that really helped Mercedes make this decision.”
Backs Mike Elliott to get it right at Mercedes
The German also backed beleaguered technical director Mike Elliott following comments from former driver Ralf Schumacher that keeping him in his role could be “problematic” given his support of the current concept.
According to Rosberg, Elliott is the one who created the car that drove Mercedes to win Red Bull’s titles in 2014, so he sees no reason why the Brit can’t do it again.
“Toto’s strength has always been people management and succession planning,” he said. “And when I look at it now who the leaders of the team are, starting with Mike Elliott, who is the technical director.
“He is extremely competent, he was the person who changed aerodynamics in my time at Mercedes and made the aerodynamics department the best in F1 all of a sudden after years of dominance by Red Bull.
“It is the new generation that now runs Mercedes and they are extremely competent. So I don’t think it’s because of this brain drain that some people have mentioned.