Mercedes have a significant gap to close if they are to challenge Red Bull next season.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton share the same optimism about reclaiming their F1 throne from Red Bull and Max Verstappen in the 2023 season. However, both are wary of their chances of challenging on the back of heavily contrasting campaigns this year.

Mercedes’ almost-decade-long dominance has been emphatically ended by Red Bull, who could confirm their first Constructors’ Championship since 2013 at the United States Grand Prix this weekend. The Silver Arrows’ decline at the start of a new era in F1 has been as dramatic as it was initially shocking, going from winning eight titles on the spin to still searching for their first triumph of the season with just four races left.

Red Bull have gone from strength to strength and built on Verstappen’s maiden crown last year with an even better car this time around. But Mercedes’ W13 has been problematic, and while Wolff believes Mercedes could catch up quickly, he’s wary of entering the 2023 season already behind Red Bull due to the development time they’ve spent solving their issues this year.

He told Channel 4: “Obviously, we have missed a lot of development time to find out about bouncing and purposing and all these things. So it’s clear that Red Bull is in a very favourable position, not only for this year but also for the start of next year. But having said that, if we were to continue our understanding and development of the car, I think we can catch up quickly.”

Lewis Hamilton will be desperate to return to the front of the grid consistently as he continues his search for a record-breaking eighth world title. The 37-year-old Brit expects to be driving an improved car next year, but he too is cautious about whether Mercedes will be able on their rivals’ level.

“Well, congrats to Max,” Hamilton said in a chat with Sky Sports F1. “I think for us, we know what the problems are with this car. I believe as a team, we’ve not gone from being World Champions and being able to build a good car to not building a good car. I have no doubt we’ll have a better car next year. Whether or not we’ve rectified every issue we have this year, we’ll find out when we get there.”

Hamilton is sixth in this year’s Drivers’ Championship, trailing Verstappen by 186 points and team-mate George Russell, in his first year at Mercedes, by 27. Although he’s winning the intra-team battle in 2022, Russell will be just as keen as Hamilton and Wolff to put the year behind him and do what he joined the Silver Arrows to do – challenging for race wins and titles.

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