After winning eight consecutive constructors’ world championships, Mercedes’ run of F1 success came to an end in 2022 amid a hugely challenging campaign with their underperforming W13 car.
George Russell took Mercedes’ only victory of the season in Brazil and finished fourth in the drivers’ standings, 35 points and two places ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who recorded his lowest finish in the championship and failed to win a grand prix for the first time in his 16-year F1 career.
But Wolff says Mercedes’ lack of competitiveness was much less painful to endure than last year’s title loss in the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, when Hamilton was denied a record-breaking eighth world title in controversial circumstances following a mishandled Safety Car restart, which enabled Max Verstappen to snatch the crown.
“Last year, without any doubt, because last year was strong,” Wolff replied when asked which experience was more painful. “And how it ended, within a couple of seconds, we knew that that’s it.
“And it’s out of control; out of your hands. And losing control, that was the first time since I was an adolescent. And, in my sense of fairness, that was totally against my values.
“But this year was not as peaky in terms of emotions, because we knew from the get-go at the beginning that the car was just not good enough.”
Wolff insisted Mercedes’ struggles in 2022 have been easier to come to terms with because the team is responsible for not getting the new era of F1 regulations right.
“I think we understood it slowly but surely,” he explained. “We would peel one layer of the onion off and you think you solved the problem, but then it is the next one and the next one.
“Then we started to correlate where this car, that was really not a good one, could perform. And we tried to concentrate on these tracks, knowing that the more difficult ones like Abu Dhabi were, in a way, damage limitation.
“So it was our doing. Last year Abu Dhabi wasn’t our doing. We knew we got it wrong. We’re conscious that others did a better job. And this is an absolute meritocracy, how this season panned out. So that is okay.”