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Toto Wolff gives concerning assessment of what lies ahead for Lewis Hamilton

Toto Wolff offered a sceptical outlook on the idea of Mercedes being back in the hunt for regular silverware next season, in a blow to fans of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

His comments come after a difficult year for his team. The Silver Arrows came into the season as winners of the previous eight constructors' titles, but it was clear after only a few races in 2022 that things were not going to go their way this time.

Instead it was Red Bull who were the dominant force. Ferrari matched them in the opening stages of the campaign but soon fell off due to a mixture of engine reliability problems and a swathe of strategy blunders.

Fans of Mercedes, and of Hamilton and Russell, were encouraged by their improvement throughout the season. That was illustrated best in Brazil, where they had the fastest cars on the track all weekend and converted that into a surprise one-two win – their only race victory of the year.

Despite those encouraging signs, Wolff admitted he has a pessimistic view of what his team can achieve in 2023. He told reporters: "I'm never confident – I'm a glass half empty guy, and kind of never believe that the job that we're doing is good enough.

"I'm not sure at all whether we can bounce back to a position where we compete for championships, because you need to acknowledge that the competition is strong. But we will do everything in our power, everything, to set our objectives high and try to reach them."

Lewis Hamilton will hope Wolff is wrong about his prediction for 2023 (PA)

But the Austrian did concede that his team will have the benefit of a significantly greater amount of wind tunnel testing time over Red Bull, which could help them to close the gap. He added: "I think how the aerodynamic regulations are designed, and the penalty they've gotten, it's 25% less wind tunnel and that can have an effect.

"The way that the regulations, the ATR restrictions, have been set in place means there are teams that are further back who can really make a big jump compared to the front runners. That's also the reason why we will see much closer championships in the future because if you are last, you will have 40 percent more.

"So, clearly that is an advantage that you have to utilise. Is it a given that we can utilise it? Who knows? [Red Bull] are a brilliant racing team. It will give them an extra motivation and against Ferrari, it's seven percent. But it's around marginal games and we have been a bit closer to Ferrari in the last quarter of the season."

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