Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has acknowledged that the eight-time Formula 1 Constructors’ Champions have “a lot to learn” from customer team Aston Martin in light of their strong start to the 2023 season.
After being restricted to a single win last year, Mercedes had hoped to return to title-winning contention in 2023 but appear to have fallen behind Aston Martin – a lowly seventh in the 2022 standings – in the competitive order.
Having seen his drivers, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, lap slower than Fernando Alonso’s AMR23 in qualifying at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Wolff commented that Aston Martin had “gained two seconds in six months and their car is half ours”.
That remark referred to the close technical partnership between the two teams, which sees Aston Martin compete with a Mercedes engine as well as their gearbox and rear suspension. The Silverstone-based outfit also have access to Mercedes’ wind tunnel.
The similarities between the Aston Martin car and the Championship-winning Red Bull design even led to suggestions after Bahrain that Mercedes, having accepted the need to change their car concept, could copy the AMR23 as a ‘quick fix’ for their disappointing start to 2023.
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Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Saudi Arabian GP, Wolff believes that the areas in which the Aston Martin differs from the Mercedes car could provide a clue to the solution for the Silver Arrows.
He told Sky Sports F1 in Jeddah: “Why it helps us, they have the whole rear end from our car, the suspension, the engines, the gearbox – all of that, so we know there are areas that are really good, that we mustn’t question too much.
“But it’s other areas where the cars are fundamentally different where we need to set our focus – there is a lot to learn.”
Wolff also believes he could take inspiration from the leadership of Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll, whose team largely struggled in the years since he rescued the former Force India operation in the summer of 2018.
Despite some poor results on track, Aston Martin made a series of impressive signings in recent years – as well as committing to the construction of a new state-of-the-art factory – putting the pieces in place before the team finally delivered on their vast potential at the start of this season.
He added: “Lawrence has gone through so many difficult years, and now the team is on the up, they’re successful, so it’s for us to learn and not the other way around as it was for many years.”