Mercedes Formula 1 team principal Toto Wolff says his team are planning to no longer improve its 2021 challenger, with next season’s regulation overhaul the new focus.
Following this morning’s Red Bull thrashing, Mercedes have gone four races without winning for the first time in the turbo-hybrid era.
The W12 is no longer a guaranteed winner, and several times this season has been comfortably beaten by Red Bull.
However, Wolff says that Mercedes designers have already shifted their attention to next year’s car, which will be the first in a significant rule change.
“That’s basically what I’m saying, yes,” Wolff said when asked if Mercedes have stopped upgrading the 2021 car.
“It is a very, very tricky decision because we have new regulations not only for next year but for the years to come, a completely different car concept.
“And you’ve got to choose the right balance. And pretty much everybody’s going to be on next year’s car.”
With a car that is already second-best in the field, no longer upgrading their car could be detrimental in Mercedes’ championship challenge, especially if rival teams continue to push on with in-season development.
Yet, Wolff insists that the battle for the championship is far from over.
“The championship is not only played with aerodynamic parts, because at a certain stage, even the ones like Red Bull who still keep adding parts need to switch all of the development into next year.
“It would make no sense to put a week or two or a month back on the current car because the gains wouldn’t be anywhere near the gains that you’re making on the 2022 car.
“But having said that, this [season] is far from over.”
The last time Mercedes put all their eggs in one basket and began intense development on next season’s car was for the dawn of the V6 era in 2014.
The team were steady midfield runners in 2012 before leaping to being the second-best car in 2013.
However, during those two seasons, work was underway on developing the all-conquering 2014 car that won 16 of 19 races.
But current championship leaders, Red Bull, are reluctant to give in to Wolff’s claims.
“I cannot believe they’ll go through the rest of this year without putting a single component on the car,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said.
“All we can do is focus on our own job. It’s a balancing act between this year and next year but if that means we’ve got to work a bit harder we’re fully up for it.”
The F1 paddock returns to the Red Bull Ring next weekend for the Austrian Grand Prix.