Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has revealed the reigning F1 champions has already “stopped developing” this year’s car after making a strategic decision to concentrate on next season's all-new machinery.
The F1 regulations change dramatically for 2022, forcing all teams to make some tough decisions on when to switch their focus to the long-term future.
After Max Verstappen benefitted from new developments on his Red Bull to finish easily ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in Sunday's Styrian Grand Prix, Wolff said: “It’s been the first race, really, in eight years, where you’re just lacking the pace.
“We have stopped developing for this year because we believe the next years are so important to get right, and they keep adding bits. There are tracks coming with the aero parts and all credit to this strategy.
“You feel like their eking away at a new power unit has been consolidating their performance, so [we need to] just get our heads together to do the best out of the package that we have and it’s far from over.”
Mercedes must 'make history' to win title
Wolff conceded Red Bull’s apparent car advantage now means his team faces a tough fight to retain its title and that it will not be certain for many years whether its decision to forego this season for the sake of the future is correct.
Title rival Red Bull has now won the last four races after deciding to continue to bring developments to its car in a quest to finally end its rivals’ seven-year drivers’ and constructors’ title dominance.
Wolff added: “It’s certainly very tough because of this strategic situation that we have a completely new car next year, with a different fuel, a different engine that will be homologated and frozen.
“The car is basically a totally different concept and you need to balance these two seasons against each other.
“Time will say, in history, when you look back in five or 10 years, whether it was the right or the wrong decision, but in any case, this fight is not over.”