Toto Wolff warns Hamilton and Russell need to be ‘realistic’

Lewis Hamilton on difficult season for Mercedes in November

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Toto Wolff has warned Lewis Hamilton and George Russell that Red Bull will still be the favourites in 2023. The Mercedes boss claimed his team have to be “realistic about expectations” and warned they could still have a sizeable gap to the frontrunners at the opening race in Bahrain.

However, the Austrian feels there is potential for Mercedes to join the fight at the top in 2023 after a strong showing at the back end of last year. He told Italian publication Autosprint: “There is no doubt that when you start half a second late it is difficult to catch teams as strong as Red Bull or Ferrari.

“For the new year we have to be realistic about our expectations, if our performance is at the level we hope they will be we could be part of the fight at the top. I think that would be a good starting point, but let’s not take it for granted, because it can also happen that we have a gap like we had at the end of last season.

“I believe that there is still so much potential in our car and its philosophy that maybe we will have a very big and steep development curve in the months to come.”

Mercedes were unable to battle Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc at the front through the opening part of the previous campaign. However, the team made small steps throughout the year before taking a giant leap with new upgrades at the United States Grand Prix.

Hamilton challenged Verstappen for the top step of the podium in Austin and Mexico City before Russell took the team’s only victory in Brazil. Mercedes have not revealed details of their new car design except for a hint that its DNA will be different to its struggling 2022 model.

Despite Wolff’s concerns, Hamilton pledged to take the new machine “to the top” in 2023.

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Russell has also suggested it is likely the team will be able to put the past behind them and get back to winning ways. He explained: “I think when you look at the development we have brought this year, and the rate at which we’ve closed the gap, there’s nothing telling us we can’t achieve this.

“We’ve been pretty clear now for about two months which targets we have to hit in terms of development. And I am pretty confident if we do achieve that, we will have a car that we can compete with Red Bull.”

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