Wolff admits Mercedes situation is ‘brutally painful’

Mercedes is in a “brutally painful” position three races into the Formula 1 season, team principal Toto Wolff concedes.

Mercedes has only scored a best result of fifth place so far this season, with both cars retiring from the last round in Melbourne. Lewis Hamilton was out early with a power unit issue, while George Russell crashed in the closing laps chasing Fernando Alonso. A post-race penalty for Alonso cost Aston Martin two points and dropped it behind Mercedes into fifth in the constructors’ standings, and Wolff insists there is reason for optimism but he doesn’t know when Mercedes will turn its form around.

“When I look at the positives, I think we took many potential root causes out of the equation,” Wolff said. “We weren’t sure about our suspension. We weren’t sure about the stiffness of our gearbox carrier. We had a vibrating steering rack. All of those things have disappeared.


“But fundamentally, whatever we see in the tunnel doesn’t correlate with what’s happening on the track. It is not a single person that says, ‘I would interpret that data in this way’ and because of dogmatism, we’re not making any progress. I don’t see dogmatism. I see an open environment where people share, where people say, ‘Maybe in my area we are making mistakes.’

“It’s so tough — in my career, in everything I’ve done before, be it in finance and investment — that you know which screws to turn. Sometimes it takes time because back in my Williams days, I knew what was missing. But here, I don’t think we are missing something. It is just a complication of what’s happening with the car that we can’t see.

“It’s like an on-off switch. And then you see the progress that McLaren and Ferrari have made. This is the difference between last year and this year. [Melbourne] was a pretty good weekend for us last year. We were leading at the beginning, one and two. So we’ve got to really dig deep because it is brutally painful.”

While Mercedes is arguably the fifth-fastest team at the moment, Wolff says the progress made by its immediate rivals behind Red Bull serve as a reminder of what is possible even after a difficult start to a season.

“I think there were times in the race where we massively lacked pace. And then there were times at the end when you compare like for like, we were doing OK,” he noted. “Still not where we want to be. But you could see in the second stint, Fernando on the medium, we couldn’t come anywhere close.

“The lap times looked like a second off the McLaren’s. And then suddenly the last one, when we went for it, not worrying too much, the lap times were competitive. Not [matching Carlos] Sainz, but it was much better.

“So clearly, we started the season in the belief that this car is better than it was last year. Then you look at last year and look at these guys — [Charles] Leclerc crashed out and Sainz was fourth and got relegated to outside of the top 10 because of the penalty. But on the road, he was fourth and McLaren was 17th, 18th, 19th. And they are 40s ahead of us.

“So obviously on one side, I want to punch myself on the nose. But on the other side, it is also a testimony of that when you get things right, you can turn it around pretty quickly and you’ve just got to continue to believe. But at the moment it is very, a very tough time.”

Story originally appeared on Racer