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Mercedes reflect on dismal Sao Paulo Grand Prix as 2023 car delivers 'nightmare' F1 performance

"We know it confirms that the trajectory of changing fundamentally is right," says Toto Wolff on their 2024 car after the team's deflating weekend at Interlagos; Lewis Hamilton "remains optimistic" but offers possible prediction about dominant Red Bull

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Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are hoping to put the weekend behind them after struggling for pace in Sao Paulo.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff suspects the team will find they made a "fundamental" error in the way they set up their car at the Sao Paulo GP as they begin to search for answers for their "nightmare" weekend.

Finishing eighth with their only car that made the chequered flag, more than a minute behind Red Bull race winner Max Verstappen, a hugely disappointed Wolff used a succession of unflattering adjectives to describe the W14's performance.

The Mercedes team principal said the lack of pace was "totally baffling" given they had appeared to make a promising step forward at the previous two weeks in the USA and Mexico.

What have Mercedes said so far about what went wrong?

Mercedes struggled badly with tyre wear in both the Saturday Sprint and Sunday Grand Prix - an attribute that is usually one of the car's strengths - with the team also behind rivals on straight-line speed having run a higher rear-wing level.

It is the second successive Sprint weekend - which limits free practice time to just one hour instead of the usual three - where Mercedes have appeared to run into set-up problems.

While they were far more competitive and finished second at the last one at the US GP with Lewis Hamilton, the car was disqualified from second place for excessive skid-block wear on the underside of the car.

The team later conceded they had not factored enough margin into the ride height for the bumpiness of the Austin circuit.

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Asked on Sunday night if they had therefore run the W14 slightly higher in Brazil, another bumpy surface, as a result, Wolff said: "We ran the car way too high.

"It's something that you probably feel that you carry that on [after what happened in Austin]."

However, Wolff made clear scale of their Sao Paulo slump could not be explained away by a minimal difference in ride height or wing level alone.

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff gives a damning assessment the car after a 'miserable' weekend for both drivers in Sao Paulo.

"But that wasn't the main reason for an absolute off weekend in terms of performance," he added.

"There was something fundamentally wrong mechanically. It's not a rear wing, and it's not the car being slightly too high because we're talking a millimetre or two less.

"That is [worth] performance but it's not the explanation for total off [weekend]."

All the more confusing for Mercedes was the fact that last year's W13, a similarly disappointing car, won so convincingly at Interlagos last November when George Russell and Hamilton delivered a one-two finish.

Comparing Brazil 2022 to 2023, Wolff said: "From a really quick car, really well balanced, drivers happy, to a nightmare. How's that even possible?

"What is it that's not right? I wouldn't be surprised if we analysed the cars in the next few days and we find out that there was a mechanical issue in the way we set them up. I don't know what that would have been."

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The best of the action from a dramatic Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

The Mercedes team principal said his team had not been alone in experiencing big changes in performance, with the current generation of ground-effect cars having the penchant to deliver a "nasty surprise".

"When I look at our competitors, even between the cars…Red Bull doesn't get things wrong often and in Singapore the car was not competitive," he said.

"Aston within one week from being outside the points to having a solid podium. McLaren the first part of the season not making it out of Q1 sometimes and now hunting Max. It is sometimes a nasty surprise for all of us.

"Probably for us today as bad as some as some of the other teams got it."

Mercedes have generally found the W14 to be unpredictable all season with Wolff likening the upgrades they have made to the car to "plasters", with a more fundamental overhaul only able to be achieved with the design of next year's W15.

"We know it confirms that the trajectory of changing fundamentally is right," stated Wolff in reference to the approach of the in-development 2024 challenger.

What do the Sky F1 pundits make of Mercedes' dismal Sao Paulo GP?

Karun Chandhok:

"I think they were only about 10 seconds away from being lapped.

"I think there's a lot of head-scratching going on there. They need to understand as a collective group where the route of this problem is because, yeah, they've had the highs of the last couple of races where they were quick - let's not forget that were excluded in Austin - but you can't produce a world championship campaign, to fight for a championship, if you've got these ups and downs, with no clear understanding as to why.

"If you came to a track and said 'we know we are going to struggle here, we know we are going to be weak here, we'll take it on the chin', that's fine. But that doesn't seem to be the case. They seem to have no clear understanding of why the highs are the highs and the lows are the lows. That is a worry going into next year."

Naomi Schiff:

"There have been a couple of times this season where we have heard Toto pretty down but that felt like a really extreme low from the sound of his voice [in his post-race Sky F1 interview].

"It seems like they have been building some real consistency recently and for them to take a step this far back in the matter of one weekend I guess does leave them quite puzzled again.

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Sky F1's Ted Kravitz reflects on all the big talking points from a dramatic Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

Hamilton on Red Bull's continued dominance

With Mercedes working on major changes for next year's car, Hamilton has consistently spoken recently of the faith he has team to deliver on their goals and get back to fighting for wins and championships again.

But at the same time, he has also urged caution, pointing out the scale of Red Bull's current dominance - Max Verstappen's win on Sunday was their 19th in 20 races this year and 29th in 31 dating back to July 2022 - and the fact the current champions will also inevitably improve their own package from a high base too.

Hamilton offered a stark prediction about what the next two seasons might hold.

"All I can do is try to remain optimistic," said the seven-time champion.

"But the Red Bull is so far away, they're probably going to be very clear for the next couple of years.

"I knew it would be a tough one. In the moment, it is a setback. But as a team we will just come together and try to push forward."

Get ready for Formula 1 in Las Vegas! See drivers race down the Strip, and past landmarks like Caesars Palace and the Bellagio, on F1's newest street track. Watch the whole Las Vegas GP weekend live on Sky Sports F1 on November 17-19. Stream F1 on Sky Sports with NOW

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