Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff insists it’s not the only side in Formula 1 to encounter “a nasty surprise” at some stage in 2023.

Mercedes endured a disastrous showing in Sao Paulo last weekend, which Wolff labelled the “worst weekend in 13 years”. Lewis Hamilton plummeted to eighth, while George Russell retired in the closing stages amid concerns over rising engine temperatures.

However, Wolff has pointed to Mercedes’ rivals as evidence it’s not the first team to experience an unexpected drop in performance with this generation of F1 cars.

Aston Martin returned to the podium on Sunday, having only recorded one top-three finish across the previous 11 races after accruing six in the first eight. Meanwhile, McLaren struggled to score points prior to becoming a regular front-runner with the introduction of a revised car in July.

Even Red Bull, who have won all but one round this year, flopped in Singapore, with both cars ending up eliminated in Q2 and outside of the podium places on race day.

Wolff believes that every team encountering a period of fluctuating form this year demonstrates the difficulty in understanding the current ground effect F1 machinery.

“When I look at our competitors, even between the cars, even Red Bull doesn’t get things wrong often and in Singapore the car wasn’t competitive,” Wolff expressed.

“Aston, within one week went from being outside of the points to having a solid podium. McLaren, in the first part of the season was not making it out of Q1 sometimes. Now it’s hunting Max [Verstappen].

“It is sometimes a nasty surprise for all of us. We got it probably today as bad as some of the other teams got it.”

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. 05.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Race Day.

Mercedes had entered the Brazil weekend amid a positive run of momentum that had seen Hamilton be Verstappen and Red Bull’s closest contender in the past two races.

But having elected to retain its ‘zeropod’ concept at launch this year after securing a 1-2 finish at Interlagos in 2022, Wolff asserts that the Brackley squad’s most recent torrid weekend validates its intention to assemble a brand-new concept with its W15 car.

“At least we have no expectations, or at least we know it confirms that a trajectory of changing fundamentally is right,” he addressed.

“Last year we came out of the Interlagos weekend absolutely on top and demolishing your competition on Saturday and Sunday and that was like ‘are we doing the right thing by continuing with the chassis that we have?’

“This is pretty clear. It feels horrible for the whole team. At least we can start the new season and concentrate on the new car.”

With Mercedes set to end an F1 campaign without a single victory for the first time since 2011, Wolff considers the German marque to be approaching unchartered territory over the upcoming winter period.

“In 13 years I’ve never felt optimistic or confident,” he claimed. “That’s maybe more my problem in my brain. The glass is always half empty.

“But what we know is that we’re changing the car completely. We are on an outlier. We are on an outlier compared to the last eight years where we’ve been at the front solidly, with the people and the structure to perform at the front, whether it’s winning championships or not that’s on a different piece of paper.”

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