FIA blamed for fresh Lewis Hamilton setback in Nico Rosberg fear

Nico Rosberg believes Mercedes’ fresh woes for the start of the 2023 season stem from the FIA raising the required height of the floor edges along with the diffuser throat, but he warned Toto Wolff that changing the concept of the car midway through the season would set them back “years” in development. There was optimism at the end of last season that Mercedes were on the right track to catching both Ferrari and Red Bull.

But pre-season testing soon highlighted they were still off the pace with Aston Martin now challenging at the front as well. The porpoising issue from last year’s car has gone, but the new floor regulations have given teams a new problem to solve in trying to help create more downforce.

By increasing last year’s floor edges, teams have found it tougher to seal the floor and Rosberg believes Mercedes have suffered more than others fighting at the front from the regulation change. Mercedes team principal Wolff admitted after Saturday’s qualifying session, which saw George Russell and Lewis Hamilton qualify sixth and seventh respectively, that he’s willing to abandon the current concept of the car and move in a different direction.

However, Rosberg believes that would be “another step backwards” for Mercedes in their bid to return to the top of the Constructors’ Championship. “It sounds like they’re in a difficult position, in a way maybe they didn’t expect,” he told Sky Sports.

“They changed the regulations at the end of last year, lifting the floor up. It seems it was disadvantageous again and made it more difficult for them somehow. They are standing in front of a difficult decision.

“If you need to change the concept completely, it’s another step backwards to then have a bigger potential gain in the medium term because medium terms is years. It sounds really difficult. They were four or five-tenths off in qualifying, which isn’t that much. They’re still fighters and won’t give up all hope.

“They are still the best team in the paddock in terms of competence. I know the people that are there. Toto has done brilliant with succession planning. I think in terms of competence the team is awesome.

“They’ve been caught out with the new ground effects and new regulations and are still learning the ropes and haven’t quite understood it entirely. It takes a bit more time I suppose.” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner wasn’t a fan of the new floor regulations being introduced, explaining they were an unnecessary expense for everyone as teams had already begun solving the porpoising issues.

“My argument at the time was will it not just get sorted out, which it did,” he said last month. “So we’ve gone through quite a lot of expense, for all the teams in a big regulation change that probably wasn’t needed.”

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