Toto Wolff insists his Mercedes Formula 1 team is "sticking together" amid comments from Lewis Hamilton that it 'didn't listen' to his input on the 2023 car.
After making rapid progress towards the end of a troubled 2022 campaign, Mercedes was hopeful of closing the gap with Red Bull and Ferrari but instead has found itself further adrift in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Mercedes came out of the 2023 season opener as the fourth-fastest team after Hamilton was powerless to resist Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso on his charge to the podium behind both Red Bulls. Team-mate George Russell was similarly beaten to sixth by Lance Stroll.
Having dialed out crippling porpoising issues with help from the raised floor rules for 2023, Mercedes hoped it would finally be able to unearth the full potential of its design philosophy.
But when Bahrain qualifying confirmed that Mercedes had regressed instead, team boss Wolff admitted the Brackley outfit would have to abandon the W14's design concept, saying he "didn't think this package is going to be competitive eventually."
After the race Lewis Hamilton told BBC 5 Live that the team 'didn't' listen' to his input on the 2023 car, saying: "Last year, there were things I told them, I said the issues that are with the car.
"I've driven so many cars in my life, so I know what a car needs, I know what a car doesn't need. And I think it's really about accountability.
"It's about owning up and saying: 'Yeah, you know what? We didn't listen to you. It's not where it used to be and we've got to work.'"
Despite those hints of frustration from the seven-time world champion, Wolff insisted the team is sticking together and its strong relationship with Hamilton is intact.
"The Lewis situation is you heard him on the [team] radio. He is an integral part of the team, picking the team up and we are all sticking together and I don’t think that is going to change just because we had a start that was really bad," Wolff said.
"We have won eight constructors' championships and six drivers’ championships with him and that relationship holds.”
Hamilton's Mercedes deal is running out at the end of the year, but Wolff says he is not yet worried about losing the seven-time world champion.
"As much as being transparent as to how we need to turn the car around, it is not the point to talk about the driver situation in 2024," he replied when asked if he has a plan B in case Hamilton decides to walk away.
"It is far too early, we need to all push in then same direction, the drivers, the engineers, all the management rather than throwing in the towel. We have never done that and we will not do it.”
"We just need to really dig deep and deeper than we have every done and provide both drivers with a car they are able to fight with."